It’s admirable that outside linebacker Michael Sam revealed to the world that he’s a gay man. It must have taken a lot of courage to do that. But while it’s admirable and many people will say positive things about Sam, let’s not kid ourselves. There will be some negative consequences that Sam will have to deal with in coming out.
At this time he’s viewed as high as a third round draft pick, but I think there are probably already some teams who will decide against drafting him. Not because he’s gay, but because of the unwanted media attention that his presence on an NFL team with undoubtedly bring along with him.
Also, teams will worry about how Sam’s presence will affect the chemistry in their locker rooms. How will Sam be accepted as an openly gay man by his teammates? How will an openly gay man be treated? And I say openly gay man because there have already been gay men who have played in the NFL, but were not openly gay. Will there be a difference with Michael Sam?
It’s possible that Sam will go from being a third or fourth round draft pick to being a late round pick or even going undrafted. Former NBA center Jason Collins came out as a gay man, and at the time many NBA players and front office people applauded him, and yet he hasn’t played in the NBA since then.
So it’s definitely a touchy subject. But how will the NFL deal with it? I’m sure they have procedures in place to deal with all types of discrimination and bullying, especially in the wake of the Jonathan Martin scandal. But Sam is not an NFL player yet, and teams are under no obligation to draft him, so those procedures don’t apply.
It will be interesting to see how this turns out. As the NFL could take a public relations hit if a player the caliber of Sam isn’t drafted. But maybe there is a team that will step forward and look past Sam’s sexual preference. He is in fact a legitimate prospect, and one of the top pass rushers in the draft. And teams covet pass rushers.
Sam was the SEC defensive player of the year, and that’s quite an honor in that league. But will it matter? There are those out there who will say that it shouldn’t matter if he’s gay or not. And I don’t think it should, but unfortunately when it comes to the NFL Draft it does.