The first openly gay sportsman to play in American Football's national league has said there were “a lot of” other homosexual players and expressed surprise that more had not come out.
“There’s a lot of us out there,” Michael Sam said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. “I’m not the only one. I’m just the only one who’s open.”
In his first interview since declaring earlier this year that he was gay, Sam, 24, from Galveston, Texas, said he had heard privately from other gay players who had thanked him for coming out and said they wished they too had the courage to do so. “They need to come out whenever they feel comfortable for them to come out,” Sam said, in the interview broadcast at the weekend
Sam, who plays as a defensive end, made his name as a college sports star at the University of Missouri before graduating in December 2013. In February of this year, before the annual National Football League (NFL) round of player selections, he announced that he was gay.
In May, Sam was chosen to play by the St Louis Rams. The moment of his selection was captured on film by a documentary crew who filmed Sam kissing his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano, and smearing cake into each other’s faces.
At the time, head coach Jeff Fisher said the decision to select Sam had been a second historic moment for the team. In 1946 the St Louis Rams had signed running back Kenny Washington, the first professional black player in American football’s modern age.
But there were others who were not impressed. Several players took to social media to criticise Sam’s behaviour. Asked about this, Sam referred to “the infamous kiss”.
“Everyone made a big deal out of it,” Sam said in the interview on the Oprah Winfrey Network. “It’s just a kiss. Did you forget that I was gay? Should I be kissing a woman instead?”
Sam was released by the St Louis Rams in August. There was much discussion at the time as to whether his sexuality was a factor. Team officials insisted it was a purely sporting decision and that they had been overly strong with players in his position. Sam was then picked up by the Dallas Cowboys practice team, only to be cut in October.
During the interview, Sam revealed a painful, troubled childhood and said he had been bullied often. He claimed he was abused on a “daily basis”.
Sam told Winfrey he believed he had made the correct decision to come out. Asked whether he believed his sexuality was a reason for him not currently being on a team roster, he replied: “I don't like to think that way. I believe good things are on the horizon.”Reuse content