by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
When Michael Sam, the former University of Missouri defensive end, came out as Gay in February, the National Football League began to ready itself for its first Gay player. While it is true that there have been, and still are, Gay players in the NFL - there hasn't ever been one who was open about it during their career.
So when Sam came out, his name shot to the top of the list at Gay blogs, sports websites, appeared in headlines on newspapers across the country and his schedule became booked with one interview after another.
Sam, who made history May 10 when he got drafted to the St. Louis Rams, said that his decision to come out while he was in school was not what he originally had wanted to do.
For anyone unfamiliar with what being drafted to a professional football team means, here is a brief explanation: Sam must still earn a playing spot on the Rams' roster. When a player is drafted, that simply means they are drafted into that team's football camp; it does not guarantee the player game time. It is important to note, however, that most players that get drafted make the official roster.
Sam says he would've waited until after the NFL draft to announce his sexual orientation.
According to Sam, his sexuality was already known in the college town of Columbia, Missouri, and among his University of Missouri teammates, whom the 6'2' defensive end informed last fall at the start of his senior season.
'They knew they could tell whoever they wanted to, but they didn't,' Sam, who grew up in Hitchcock, Texas, said. 'They kept it secret. They didn't have to. I was out. I did my own thing. I had my boyfriend.'
Sam is dating Vito Cammisano, a former athlete on the Missouri swim team.
'When I came out in February, I did it because when I participated in the Senior Bowl, I was surprised how many people in the media knew. Everyone who did an interview with me said, 'Okay, we know you're Gay. Can we break the story?' So I said okay, and I called my agent,' he said. 'The rest is history.'
Without a doubt, Sam's draft marks a new era for the NFL. Sam says he hopes for the same supportive environment he knew as a college player.
'I'm probably one of the few to be as blessed as I am, to have great teammates the way I did, and have the great coaching staff the way I did at Mizzou,' he said.
When Sam got selected in the seventh round of the NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams, he broke down in tears and kissed his boyfriend on camera. While Sam has many supporters, you could imagine the media and social media firestorm that resulted from the kiss.
'I'm sorry, but that Michael Sam is no bueno for doing that on national tv,' former Super Bowl champion Derrick Ward tweeted.
Ward played for the New York Giants and the Houston Texans.
'Man U got little kids lookin at the draft. I can't believe ESPN even allowed that to happen,' he added.
Ward says he has received death threats against him and his children after the comments.
Don Jones, Miami Dolphins safety, also expressed his disapproval, tweeting 'horrible' and 'OMG' after the kiss was aired. He has since deleted those comments.
The Dolphins responded, ordering Jones to pay an undisclosed fine and barring him from team activities until he finishes 'training for his recent comments made on social media.'
'We met with Don today about respect, discrimination and judgment,' the Dolphins said in a statement Sunday. 'These comments are not consistent with the values and standards of our program.'
Jones issued an apology for his remarks saying, 'I want to apologize to Michael Sam for the inappropriate comments that I made last night on social media. I take full responsibility for them and I regret that these tweets took away from his draft moment. I remember last year when I was drafted in the seventh round and all of the emotions and happiness I felt when I received the call that gave me an opportunity to play for an NFL team and I wish him all the best in his NFL career.'
Aside from that, and a few more ridiculous tweets by lesser-known or completely unknown players, fans and media personalities, all things point to good.
One good sign of the times that pro sports fans and the athletes themselves are embracing Gay players can be seen with the fact that his new Rams jersey quickly became the No. 2 seller among NFL rookies.
Sam's boyfriend, Cammisano said, 'We are staying home! Could not be more proud of my babe!'
He then followed it up a few hours later with 'Wow. What a day. On cloud 9. So proud and happy!'
The second tweet linked to a close-up of Cammisano, his face covered in cake, sharing another smooch with Sam.
President Barack Obama weighed in.
'The President congratulates Michael Sam, the Rams and the NFL for taking an important step forward today in our Nation's journey,' the White House said in a statement. 'From the playing field to the corporate boardroom, LGBT Americans prove every day that you should be judged by what you do and not who you are.'
One thing is for sure, Sam was not about to let any detractors put a damper on the party. People magazine reports that the defensive end celebrated with a group of 10 friends, including Cammisano, at Tao Las Vegas.
While inside the club, Sam spotted Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and the two chatted for a few minutes. The outspoken Sherman had been supportive of Sam in multiple interviews following his announcement that he is Gay three months ago.
Sam also headed to the deejay booth, where DJ Vice stopped the music to introduce the new NFL player to the supportive crowd.
Cammisano also posted a message on Twitter, suggesting he may be one of the luckiest guys in Vegas: 'I put a dollar in, I won a car. I put a dollar in, I won a car. Vegas. We have arrived!'
Sam will now head to St. Louis to participate in the rookie camp.
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