NFL Nation Says: Michael Sam
What is the greatest challenge facing Sam as he moves into the professional ranks? How will his announcement change the league?
Answers ranged the spectrum of opinion. Many suggested Sam would be challenged more by increased public attention than by anything he encountered inside the NFL culture. Some, most notably New York Giants defensive back Terrell Thomas, think the league isn't ready for an openly gay player.
In the end, St. Louis Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis said, Sam's announcement provides players "an opportunity to show kind of their class" by demonstrating how the team concept can supersede the natural differences of opinions in a group setting. Read on for additional comments:
Indianapolis Colts tight end Dwayne Allen
How will his announcement change the league? "I'm hoping that this announcement enables other homosexual players to be comfortable enough to disclose their sexual orientation to their respective organizations if they feel the need to. I am a Christian and do not believe that sinful acts should be celebrated/praised or judged by man. I commend him for his courage to come forth with this, but I do not idolize him. We are role models to many and certain things in our personal lives should not be broadcasted to the masses. The influence of a professional [soon to be] athlete is something that should be used wisely for the betterment of society."
What are the greatest challenges facing Michael Sam in the NFL? "His biggest obstacle will be the conservative, religious owners. Trust me, he will be welcomed in the NFL by the players. Sexuality has nothing to do with the type of player that he is. It is not a big deal. None whatsoever. Look, the whole story is out in the open. Everyone in the locker room knows that he is gay. We all know he's not coming in the locker room trying to make a move on anybody. Come on. It's not going to happen. People will not let this become another Jonathan Martin situation. It will not be tolerated. There is nothing to hide here. There are no secrets. He is gay. So what? I think by now we all realize that sexuality has no bearing on the type of football player a person is. At the end of the day, we are all just trying to win games."
How will his announcement change the league? "Honestly, what is going to change? He's a defensive end. Maybe a linebacker at the NFL level. Just because he's gay doesn't change any of that. He's a football player like everybody else. This is why I haven't been swept up in this story. There are gay players right now across the NFL. There are gay players right now in the NBA. There are gay players in MLB. We know there are gay professional athletes. The sports themselves haven't changed one bit. There will always be gay athletes. The whole 'changing the sports landscape,' I don't know, I don't see that happening. He will be accepted. He is gay. He will hopefully be a good NFL player. End of story."
General comment: "I have no problem with it, but I am also an oddity in the NFL. The majority of guys will have a hard time with the new kid on the block as the mob mentality always does. I see it as any civil rights movement, the first one through the wall will get bloody."
What are the greatest challenges facing Michael Sam in the NFL? "His greatest challenge will be proving to teammates that their stereotypes are unjust. Also proving to teams he is good enough to play at this level -- which, on the field, is all anyone cares about."
How will his announcement change the league? "His announcement will hold the attention of football fans while there is no football to be played."
Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron
How will his announcement change the league? "That's a hard one to say. I would hope that it would be a positive thing where guys can welcome him to the team and also guys can come out and say what they are and nobody will judge them. This is a brotherhood and guys should be accepting. It's a league with a lot of grown men who are mature men, and the way a man is inside is none of our business."
What are the greatest challenges facing Michael Sam in the NFL? "I think, on the surface, there shouldn't be any challenges. We've come so far in the past decade of kind of accepting the fact, theoretically, that 10 percent of males are gay. We've come so far as accepting people as being that way. My experiences in life have opened my eyes that it doesn't matter. I respect people's opinions and beliefs as well. I don't know how to equate it -- is it more natural or is it a choice? For me, the only thing I can control is my reaction. It's not a big deal to me having a gay player in the locker room at all."
How will his announcement change the league? "I would say, on average, because you have to have that macho mentality in the NFL, I feel like there are a lot of homophobic people in this business than probably any other industry. The macho mentality is built up; you cannot show any weakness. How many times has a coach said something like 'Stop running like a girl'? You always have that masculine mentality; that being a habit you develop, it almost becomes people's character. I would definitely think it would make it a more professional environment, where [you] have to watch what you say. The locker-room environment can be very brutal at times, guys razzing each other back and forth. Sometimes it escalates to the point of seriousness where guys start fighting out of nowhere, especially on the practice field -- exercise-induced anger. That cultivates that locker-room mentality and environment. You now might have to be more professional in what you say."
Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins
How will his announcement change the league? "It's changing the league because it's uncharted territory. Anytime you go through a new experience, you're going to go through change."
St. Louis Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis
How will his announcement change the league? "It gives the players in the NFL a chance to show their character. They should treat Michael like he's a human being and every human being deserves to be treated the same, with respect, and when you show people respect, they respect you back. It's as simple as that. People are trying to make this way more complicated than it is. I understand it's a big deal because it's the first person to do it. Quite frankly, if he's a St. Louis Ram, treat him with respect and get to know him just like I would my other teammates. His sexual orientation isn't going to -- I don't think in our locker room -- really matter. I don't think it will across the league.
"I think right now it gives the NFL players an opportunity to show kind of their class. We have a lot of different backgrounds in our locker room and there's a lot of people that might have different political views than me, might have different faith views than me and all of that, but it doesn't mean I don't treat them with respect and treat them as a human being and care for them and love my teammates. When you go into battle and you have one common goal of winning the Super Bowl, you are going to love your teammates that you go to battle with. Can I trust this guy on the football field and does he have my back? If those answers are 'yes,' then I'm going to battle for you."
What are the greatest challenges facing Michael Sam in the NFL? "The immaturity of NFL athletes. Because we're all given so much at a young age so none of us have to grow up. You're still dealing with teenagers aside from some who are in their 30s. But, generally, it's a very immature group. A lot of guys are coddled all the way through high school. In college, most are there three years and once you get to the NFL, you get a s---load of money and you go have fun. There's no real world yet, and that will be difficult."
How will his announcement change the league? "I don't think it will. It's just one person. I know there's more than just him, but it's one person [who's out] who's not even in a locker room yet. The NFL is such a giant entity that it's pretty difficult to make any change."
Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle Eric Winston
How will his announcement change the league? "I think it'll make more guys aware in a sense. I think for whatever reason guys are willing to stick their heads in the sand and think other gay players have never played in the NFL. That's a statistical improbability. I think in that way, I think it'll open up guys' eyes that there's a lot of different kinds of people in the locker room. Not just from a lot of different backgrounds, but everything. It'll force guys to be a little more open-minded."
Minnesota Vikings fullback Jerome Felton
How will his announcement change the league? "I think it could kind of breathe some fresh air into the league, depending on how his process goes, the things that happen to him. He's probably going to affect if other people decide if they want to come out, and whether they choose to get ahead of it like he's done. I'm sure his experience in the next three months, six months, a year to two years, will affect how people think it will be handled for them [if they decide to come out]. If he has a great experience, I'm sure you'll see it happen more often. If he doesn't make it, that might deter other people. A lot of it will be based on his experiences going forward."
Vikings defensive end Brian Robison
How will his announcement change the league? "I don't really know, to be totally honest with you. I didn't know what was going on until [Monday] morning, when I got a text asking me if the league was ready for this. I had no clue what anybody was talking about. For me, it shouldn't change anything. He's already told his teammates; it really shouldn't matter. The bottom line is we're trying to achieve the same goal. None of it should matter."
Colts long-snapper Matt Overton
How will his announcement change the league? "We have all been waiting for guys to come out. It's just a matter of time and I applaud Mike for his courage, especially before the big job interview of the combine and draft process. I believe more players will come out now. I can't imagine what these guys are going through and I can only see more positives coming out from their situation by being up-front and honest. That way they can focus on football and their performance on the field and they can walk around being themselves. This is good for the NFL, all sports and humanity."
"I was a fifth-round draft pick and nobody documented anything I did. Everything he does will be under the microscope."
How will his announcement change the league? "I don't know. That remains to be seen. It's obviously a hot social topic. The inner circle tends to want to stay away from social topics."
What are the greatest challenges facing Michael Sam in the NFL? "Everybody is going to be different. Me, personally, I have no problem with his sexual preference. I look at him as a man. I don't judge anyone by what he does off the field. I judge them by what he does on the field."
How will his announcement change the league? "I could see more guys coming out. I'm sure they have just as much stress on them trying to keep it away from others. They might not want Michael Sam to be alone. Maybe they come out and have his back, too. I could see it changing in a good way. Eventually, it was going to happen anyway. Probably more guys who are undercover but don't want to come out [do so]. Some guys probably know about guys on their team already, but don't say anything about it."
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny
How will his announcement change the league? "With the fact that now there will be an openly gay player in the NFL, people will have to be more tolerant. No doubt about it. People have to be very accepting. The league is progressing just like the rest of society and people realize this is the way it's going to be. The good thing is he took this step, made a courageous step, and this time next year we could have a handful of guys. It's not a big deal."
Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri
"He's also going to have to overcome some bigotry. I know there's going to be a lot of people who support him as well. People sometimes choose sides and aren't willing to come down from what they believe or think is right. Me, personally, I feel like everybody has the right to be happy, so I would never shun a person or disassociate myself with someone just because their sexual orientation isn't the same as mine."
How will his announcement change the league? "We'll see. I'm not sure what the impact will be. Obviously, we're professionals and as adults we all focus on what's really important in our profession, and that's the game of football and building your team to win games and to give you an opportunity to play for a championship. That's what everybody comes into the league with as the ultimate goal. I feel like that's where the focus should stay. I feel like it would be doing a disservice to everybody if there's a preponderance of coverage of this man because of his sexual orientation. Where if he didn't come out as an openly gay player it'd be business as usual for the league and the media. For me, the focus should stay on football. It's a great thing what he did. It takes a lot of courage to do that. The world is different today than it was 50 years ago. I feel like it shouldn't be an issue. It is still a great first for football."
Tennessee Titans center Brian Schwenke
How will his announcement change the league? "Hopefully, Michael Sam's announcement will build a more tolerant environment for the gay community in sports, and make it easier for other athletes to come out."
What are the greatest challenges facing Michael Sam in the NFL? "Obviously the biggest thing for Michael Sam will be the team accepting him for who he is. Guys will need to deal with having a gay teammate. I think it will also be important that Sam has a group of guys around him that are willing to help him adjust to his surroundings and transition to life in the NFL. Believe it or not, we had a gay kicker on our college team. He told us all. The whole team knew. And I swear, nobody treated him any differently. We all accepted him and were cool with him choosing to live his life as a gay man. I had no problem with him at all. It was all good."
How will his announcement change the league? "Without question it is going to change the league. I think there is a chance that guys who are gay in the NFL but haven't come out, will come out to their teammates during the upcoming season. I bet that happens. Maybe they won't go public like Michael Sam, but they'll feel more comfortable being honest with the other guys in the locker room."
New York Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas
How will his announcement change the league? "Hard to say. I think it's torn. I think society is ready for it and America's ready for it, but I don't think the NFL is. As a player, all you want to know is if he can play. That's on the field. But in the locker room, it's different. There's a lot of talk and joking around, and some guys walk around completely naked all the time, and they might not want to do that anymore. When you add that situation to the mix, I think it's going to make some people uncomfortable. Things are changing, and certain change is inevitable. We have to look at him like a brother and can't treat him any different. But that could be difficult for some people, just the way our locker rooms work."
More from Thomas
How will his announcement change the league? "I would assume that maybe there will be more guys who would speak out and say they are. Or maybe there won't be. Again, maybe a lot of them will sit around and kind of see how this plays out. You just never know. The main thing, though, is that he has done it, and it's a relief off his shoulders and would think that the majority of people will embrace him and accept him. It doesn't mean that they're for it or any of that kind of stuff. It just means that the right thing to do is to be accepting, whether you agree or not. Treat him just like anybody else. That will happen with the majority of the NFL. I don't think we're in an environment that's much different than any other workplace."
How will his announcement change the league? "It doesn't change the league at all. The league is still the same league it's been. He made the announcement for reasons unknown but for reasons he understands, and that's really all that matters. What most people aren't talking about is that nobody particularly cares about an NFL player's sexual orientation in the locker room."
Final Philadelphia 24 Washington 27 Final/OT San Diego 38 San Francisco 35
1:00 PM ET Minnesota Miami 1:00 PM ET Baltimore Houston 1:00 PM ET Detroit Chicago 1:00 PM ET Cleveland Carolina 1:00 PM ET Atlanta New Orleans 1:00 PM ET Green Bay Tampa Bay 1:00 PM ET Kansas City Pittsburgh 1:00 PM ET New England New York 4:05 PM ET New York St. Louis 4:25 PM ET Buffalo Oakland 4:25 PM ET Indianapolis Dallas 8:30 PM ET Seattle Arizona