Michael Sam, the University of Missouri defensive end, who came out earlier this year, has been drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the final round of the NFL Draft.
Sam was a first-team All-America selection at Missouri last fall after leading the SEC with 11.5 sacks. He did that after having announced his sexuality to his teammates prior to his senior year. It clearly wasn't an issue for the Tigers, who won the SEC East and the Cotton Bowl.
Sam had a disappointing spring, football-wise, posting some lackluster numbers in the combine, which lessened the buzz surrounding Sam's potentially groundbreaking selection by an NFL team. While Jason Collins was the first player to break professional sports' sexual orientation barrier earlier this year with the Brooklyn Nets, Sam's case is different from a number of reasons. The first of which is that Sam is in the infancy of his career while Collins is in his twilight.
Football is also a different animal. Team cohesion, like unit cohesion, an argument once used to keep the army segregated by race and sexual orientation at various points, has remained a focus of debates about locker-room culture. This dynamic is only magnified in the brutal NFL, which is the country's most popular sport by far and has plagued by issues like bullying and hazing in recent months.
As we noted, when Sam made his landmark announcement earlier this year, his Missouri team not only backed him up, but talked about the strength of their team's chemistry.
Here's the big moment:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.