This week, Michael Sam of the University of Missouri became the first openly gay man drafted in the National Football League (NFL). He was the 249th pick in the seventh round drafted by the St. Louis Rams. This was a major win for gay rights activists everywhere.

 

Sam came out to his college team earlier this season, and many wondered if it would hurt his chances of being drafted in a professional league.

 

The New York Times echoed this concern saying that Sam is:

“enter[ing] an uncharted area of the sports landscape. He is making his public declaration before he is drafted, to the potential detriment to his professional career. And he is doing so as he prepares to enter a league with an overtly macho culture, where controversies over homophobia have attracted recent attention.”

 

Thankfully, the statement did not ruin his chances; when Sam received the call from the Rams, he celebrated with a kiss from his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano. Many people were not comfortable with Sam kissing his boyfriend on national television; some of them tweeted their opposition. Former Super Bowl champ, Derrick Ward, tweeted, “Man U got little kids lookin at the draft. I can’t believe ESPN even allowed that to happen.”

 

It is not surprising to hear that people were opposed to the PDA, but had it been a wife or girlfriend, I doubt that these people would have made a big fuss at all.

 

Having its fair share of homophobic and racial slur controversies over the years,  the NFL is not exactly the poster child for equality and acceptance, but hopefully the drafting of Michael Sam is a step in the right direction. The acknowledgement that sexual preference does not hinder one’s ability to play sports — or do anything else, for that matter — is an important recognition.

 

After Sam was drafted to the Rams, members of the team tweeted their congratulations, along with thousands of other people who support the openly gay athlete. In the future, it will be interesting to see how this affects the way people talk and view Sam as a player. Will Sam’s sexual orientation always be the focus of his career? Will commentators let it fade into the background? What does this mean for other gay athletes?

 

What do you think of Michael Sam being the first openly gay NFL draft pick? Let me know in the comments below or find me on Twitter @whatsthesich