It is ironic that just a few days after Jonathan Vilma mused about having a gay player in the locker room, and that one of the issues would be players showering in front of a gay teammate, that this will now be a reality.
First off, I thought Michael Sam was outstanding on ESPN. He came across as eminently likable, just a great guy who has overcome a tremendous amount of adversity, and why should you care whether he is straight or gay–that was my impression. However, the reality is that people will care, a lot of them.
Number one, NFL teams will care, and my belief is that it will affect his draft status. Sports Illustrated interviewed a number of executives, off the record of course, who said just that: it will impact his draft stock. Why? Well, if for no other reason than the media circus it will create. Plus, NFL players are young men who can be ignorant and insensitive. My guess is that a team that would have taken him in the third round might pass and get an equal player, but if he still sitting there in the fourth or fifth round, then he will get picked.
People are talking about what the fans will say during games. I believe football is the easiest sport in that regard. As a player, you really can’t hear what one fan says. It is too loud, and they are too far away. It would be far more difficult on a player in the NBA or MLB, when the athletes are closer to the fans, and it isn’t as loud.
I also think Sam might have an easier time being accepted by teammates than some would think because of his background. He has two brothers in jail, and one that was murdered. He has been through a lot, and survived a lot. He is a tough guy, and that should give him credibility.