US football star comes out as gay
Published 11/02/2014 | 02:30
AMERICAN football is about to get its first openly gay player after a young prospect came out shortly before he joins the NFL.
Michael Sam (24) a 6ft 2in, 19-stone defensive lineman who currently plays for the University of Missouri, announced that he was gay in a series of high profile media interviews in the US.
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He could soon become the first openly gay athlete in any of the four major North American professional sports leagues, although a few players have come out after their playing days ended.
Sam is among this year's leading college stars, having been voted his team's most valuable player, and is a certainty to be selected by one of the NFL teams when they hold their annual draft over three days in May.
He said: "I am an openly, proud gay man. I understand how big this is. No one has done this before and it's kind of a nervous process. But I know what I want to be. I want to be a football player in the NFL."
He decided to make a public announcement so that he could reveal the news on his own terms. He said: "I want to own my truth. No one else should tell my story but me."
His decision was hailed as a milestone by gay rights groups. Sarah Kate Ellis, head of GLAAD, a lesbian, gay and bisexual rights group, said it was "clear that America is ready for an openly gay football star".
However, Sam already faces an anonymous whispering campaign within his own sport.
One American football source said: "In the coming decade or two it's going to be acceptable, but at this point it's still a man's-man game."
An NFL assistant coach added that it would negatively affect his potential earnings and was "not a smart move".
However, the NFL said: "We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. (© Daily Telegraph, London)