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St Louis Rams draft Michael Sam

Former University of Missouri player picked 249th overall in NFL draft

Michael Sam could become the first openly gay NFL player to take the field if he successfully makes the St Louis Rams team. Credit: wikimedia.org

When a new National Football League season (NFL) kicks off in the fall, Michael Sam could be the first active, openly gay player, suiting up for the St Louis Rams if he makes the final cut for the team. Sam came out publicly Feb 9.

Shortly after the news broke, the NFL Network cut to an ESPN video of a tearful Sam on the phone with Rams head coach Jeff Fisher.

Fisher told the NFL Network he has no concerns about having an openly gay player on the team. While he acknowledges that there will be some initial extra tension, he says he looks forward to Sam’s presence on the team and plans to ensure no distractions affect his production on the field.

Sam, whom experts predicted would be picked up in the final four rounds of the draft, was selected 249th overall in round seven of a highly anticipated final day of the NFL draft. He is a former University of Missouri defensive end and the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

Sam tweeted, “Thank you to the St Louis Rams and the whole city of St Louis. I’m using every ounce of this to achieve greatness!!”

According to an ESPN poll of NFL players, 86 percent say they would have no problem with a gay teammate. The sports broadcaster asked 51 players how they felt about gay players on their teams and in their locker rooms, in reaction to Sam’s coming out. But the survey also notes that 63 percent said that teammates or coaches had used homophobic slurs in the past season, and only 49 percent said an openly gay player would be comfortable in an NFL locker room.