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Players offer mixed reaction to Michael Sam announcement

02.11.14 at 9:41 am ET
By
Would Michael Sam be a fit with the Patriots? (AP)

Michael Sam (AP)

Just over a day after NFL draft prospect Michael Sam announced that he is gay, individuals affiliated with the NFL have shown polarizing views over whether or not the league is ready for a gay athlete.

“I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it,” Sam said in an interview with The New York Times. “I just want to own my truth.”

In New England, both Patriots owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick came out in support of Sam, who would be the first openly gay athlete in any of the four major sports if he is drafted.

They’€™re words went along with horde of current and former NFL players who stood by Sam, including former Patriots receiver Donte’ Stallworth.

On Sunday evening, Herm Edwards asked during an ESPN interview, “Can the players handle the media attention they are going to get when they get the question asked, ‘€˜Are you OK with a gay teammate?’ €™” Stallworth responded with 20 tweets arguing that NFL players were already losers if they could not handle the media coverage of drafting Sam.

 

 

Not every reaction was positive, though, as one club official said in an interview with Peter King that it would depend on the team’€™s leadership.

“A team with strong leadership at coach and in the locker room, like New England, I would imagine, would be OK,” a scout said. “I could see Belichick say, ‘This is the way it is. There’€™s no story.’€™ And guys would just accept him. There’€™d be no choice. But without that strong leadership, I could see it being divisive, and I could see a team saying, ‘€˜We don’€™t need this.’ €™”

One GM also told King that a team would not even select Sam, who was projected as being picked in the middle rounds of the 2014 draft.

“We talked about it this week,” the GM said. “First of all, we don’€™t think he’s a very good player. The reality is he’€™s an overrated football player in our estimation. Second, he’€™s going to have expectations about where he should be drafted, and I think he’ll be disappointed. He’s not going to get drafted where he thinks he should.

“The question you will ask yourself, knowing your team, is, ‘€˜How will drafting him affect your locker room?’€™ And I am sorry to say where we are at this point in time, I think it’s going to affect most locker rooms. A lot of guys will be uncomfortable. Ten years from now, fine. But today, I think being openly gay is a factor in the locker room.”

King offered both the scout and the GM anonymity in order to get honest reaction to the topic.

Some former and current players did not use that same amount of anonymity as they said on Twitter that they were against having a gay player in the NFL. According to the New York Daily News, Giants defensive back Charles James tweeted his opinion before eventually deleting his comments.

James said on Twitter: 1.) your business is your business I don’t care! 2.) When did this become a heroic act? 3.) I’m pissed because I can’t even watch ESPN

Former Cowboys and Chargers receiver Patrick Crayton also voiced his opinion, saying over the course of multiple tweets: Oh wow!!! There goes the NFL! … Stay in the closet and keep … To urself!!!

Crayton went on to defend his previous tweets:

 

 

 

 

While Crayton and other executives may think that this issue will remain a topic in the NFL for several more years,  the league released a statement Sunday evening showing support for Sam.

“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage,” the NFL said. “Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”

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