Michael Sam – "I'm an Openly Proud Gay Man"
Chris Connelly (Interviewer): What have you come here today to tell us?
Michael Sam: I came to tell the world that I'm an openly proud gay man.
CC: How does it feel to say those words to the world?
MS: It's a load off my chest. I told my teammates this past August [...] I came out to my teammates, and they took it great. They rallied around me, they supported me, and I couldn't ask for better teammates.
CC: What did that moment feel like to tell your teammates?
MS: It was, I was kinda scared, even though they already knew - but I was still scared of telling them. And just to see their reaction was awesome. They supported me from day one.
CC: When did you realize what your sexual orientation was?
MS: I knew from a young age that I was attracted to guys. I didn't know if it was a phase. I didn't want to say, 'Hey, I might be gay. I might be bi.' I just didn't know [...] I wanted to find who I was and make sure I knew what was comfortable. So I didn't tell anyone growing up.
CC: Emotionally, what is it like to share this story with the world, about yourself?
MS: You know, this is something that I've known for a while, but this is, to me, telling something, another person, that: 'Hey, I'm gay.' It shouldn't be a big problem. I endured so much in my past, so much tragedy: seeing my older brother killed from a gunshot wound, not knowing that my oldest sister died when she was a baby and I never got the chance to meet her. My second oldest brother went missing in 1998, and me and my little sister were the last ones to see him... my other two brothers have been in and out of jail since 8th grade, currently both in jail [...] Telling the world I'm gay is nothing compared to that.
CC: That past could have crushed you, Michael.
MS: It could have. I could be in jail; I could be dead... but I made a choice, I made a choice at a young age that I knew that I didn't want to follow the path of my brothers [...] I knew that I wanted to have some success so that my family could be proud of me.
CC: You could become the first openly gay player in the history of the NFL. That's a momentous thing. How does that feel to you?
MS: I don't really look at it like that. I'm Michael Sam, and I'm a football player. I wanna be a football player in the NFL. I understand how big this is. It's a big deal. No one has done this before. And it's kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be, and I want to be able to play a snap in the NFL.
CC: Why do you think it's important for the NFL to know this about you before the Draft?
MS: I was actually going, whatever team I got drafted, and I was going to tell the owner, and the coach, and the GM about my sexuality. And knowing two weeks ago how many people actually knew [...] I was afraid that someone would tell or leak something out without me actually owning my truth - and I wanted to let the world know, and tell them: 'Hey, I'm gay; let me tell my own story.'
CC: How prepared are you for the things that people yell from the stands?
MS: I expect that. Everyone can say hurtful things and hateful things; I don't let stuff like that distract me. But there are going to be positives. The positives will outweigh the negative.
CC: How do you hope your coaches, and your teammates, will deal with your sexual orientation?
MS: It shouldn't matter. If I work hard, if I make plays, that's all that should matter. 'Can he help us win games? Is he a team player?' That's all that matters. And I like to see myself as that: I am a team player. I can make plays. I can help teams to win games. And that's all that should matter.
CC: How concerned are you about getting acceptance from the other players?
MS: Hopefully, players will see that they don't judge me because I'm gay. They see: 'Hey, this person works hard. Can he win us games? Can he win us a championship?' Which I can. It's a workplace. If you've ever been in a Division I or pro locker room, it's a business place. You want to act professional. I mean, people will talk about the stereotype of gays being in the locker room. To me, I think that it's a little stereotyped that gay people are predators. It's just very offensive.
CC: What kind of negativity do you anticipate?
MS: Some people don't see gay people playing in sports. It is what it is. I'm happy with who I am. I know how to play the game. If you led the SEC with 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for losses? If a gay person did that, I wouldn't call that person weak. I'm a football player, and that's all that matters.
CC: You're a football player responsible for a landmark moment in American sports right now. Why are you the right person to be in the spotlight at this moment?
MS: Because I'm not afraid of who I am. I'm not afraid to tell the world who I am. I'm Michael Sam: I'm a college graduate. I'm African American, and I'm gay.
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