Football Reacts to Michael Sam Coming Out

PHOTO: In this Jan. 1, 2014, file photo, Missouri senior defensive lineman Michael Sam speaks to the media during an NCAA college football news conference in Irving, Texas.

Football players, coaches and personalities had a range of reactions to prospective NFL player Michael Sam’s announcement that he’s gay.

Sam, an All-America defensive lineman with the University of Missouri, identified himself as “an openly, proud gay man” in interviews with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” and the New York Times.

If he is selected in this year’s NFL draft – scouts slated him as a third- to fifth-round pick – he would be the first openly gay player in NFL history.

Sam came out to his college teammates last summer, but decided to make his announcement in order to control the way the story was spread.

“I want to own my truth,” he told ESPN’s Chris Connelly. “Two weeks ago at The Senior Bowl I didn’t realize how many people actually knew, and I was afraid that someone would tell or leak something out about me or tell my story. I just wanted to control the situation and tell my story.”

The announcement drew reaction from the NFL, players, and even Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.

Many football players were supportive of Sam, expressing enthusiasm that the NFL could have its first openly gay active player. Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams believes the focus should be on talent, not sexual orientation.

Seahawks linebacker and Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith applauded Sam’s courage.

Jets defensive tackle Damon Harrison was also sympathetic.

Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders expressed the need to withhold judgment.

Fabian Washington – who played in the NFL from 2005 until 2010 – is indifferent to the news.

Retired NFL quarterback Shaun King believes that Sam's coming out will bring extra attention to any team that drafts him, but that on-field ability, and not orientation, will determine his NFL potential.

Former wide receiver Patrick Crayton – who played for the Cowboys and Chargers from 2004 to 2011 – doesn’t think Sam should have come out, and believes the announcement will undercut his career.

The NFL issued a statement in support of Sam.

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