Two years ago, Michael Sam made history when he became the first openly gay man ever drafted by an NFL team.
Now, in an interview on the Edge of Sports podcast with Dave Zirin, Sam says that decision is likely a reason he still hasn’t officially been signed to an NFL roster.
“I think if I never would have came out, never would have said those words out to the public, I would still be currently in the NFL. But because of me saying those words, I think it could have played a huge part in my current situation,” he said.
Sam came out to his teammates at the University of Missouri at the beginning of the 2013 season, and he came out publicly to ESPN a couple of months before the 2014 NFL draft. There was a huge media frenzy surrounding his announcement, which was one of the biggest stories headed into the draft.
Despite being named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and projected as a third-round draft pick when he announced that he was gay, Sam wasn’t drafted until the St. Louis Rams took him in the seventh round. Cameras famously captured him kissing his boyfriend after he was drafted.
Sam went to training camp with the Rams and had a successful preseason showing, recording three sacks, but ultimately was left off the 52-man roster, primarily because the Rams had an exceptional amount of talent at his position. He told Zirin that being drafted to the Rams was pretty much a “lose-lose situation,” and he might have been better off going undrafted and potentially having more control over where he landed.
I don’t regret coming out but I do wish things would have gone differently.
After being cut from the Rams, Sam ended up on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad, but was cut just a few weeks later. Last spring he was on Dancing With The Stars, and last fall he was briefly signed with the Canadian Football League. He played one game with the Montreal Alouettes before leaving the team, citing mental health concerns. Sam didn’t discuss any of the post-Rams experiences on the podcast, but did say that he is currently training and his goal is still to make it onto an NFL roster in the next year or two.
While Sam says that he didn’t directly experience any homophobia in the NFL, he does think that he’s proved time and time again that he has the talent to make it in the league. As Zirin points out, Sam is the only SEC Defensive Player of the Year from the past eight years not currently on an NFL roster.
“I know how to play this game, I can play this game,” Sam said. “I don’t know what goes on in the NFL with the guys who are making the decisions, but whatever it is, hopefully it’s not what I think it is.”
Sam said that he wishes he had thought more about his long-term goals before coming out so quickly. While he’s had a positive impact on the LGBT community already, he could have made even more of a difference if he had made a roster and had a successful rookie campaign announcing that he was gay.
“I don’t regret coming out but I do wish things would have gone differently,” he said.
The entire interview is certainly worth a listen. Sam also discusses the racism and activism at his alma matter Missouri, coming out to his teammates in college, his religious upbringing, and his future aspirations.
Ultimately, Sam says that there are other gay players in the NFL who won’t come out because they’re worried about their livelihood. He thinks the NFL needs to do more to support the LGBT community and change the culture.
“They should do more. They really should do more. I mean, everyone watches football, everyone loves football,” Sam said. “Right now who is leading that charge is probably the NBA, the NBA is very outspoken and they do a lot for the LBGT community. The NFL does very few.”