An athlete’s sexuality isn’t usually a business story.
But when University of Missouri football player Michael Sam announced he was gay to ESPN and the New York Times, it made some wonder if it would hurt his chances in the NFL draft later this year.
Sam is widely known to be a talented defensive player.
“He is one of the more decorated players you’ll find in college football this season,” says Holly Anderson, staff writer at ESPN’s Grantland.
Anderson rattles off a list of Sam’s achievements: being named a First Team All-American, winning Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC, getting voted Most Valuable Player by his own teammates — after telling them he was gay.
“It doesn’t seem like there would ever be a perfectly ideal time to do this,” says Anderson about Sam’s announcement, only weeks before the Combine, but months before the draft.
The National Football League is a business — and Anderson says it’s beginning to make business sense to welcome players without hesitations over sexuality. She points to the Mizzou team’s reaction to the announcement, including players bragging about the team’s “family environment” in support of Sam’s announcement.
But the real implications for Sam’s future aren’t clear, though Anderson leans on the side of confidence. She says some teams may see Sam as a risk worth taking, while for others, it could be a non-issue.
“And realistically, we also don’t know that there aren’t teams feeding negative information about him, so they can get him at a steal.”
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