Gay NFL prospect draws support, puts spotlight on pro league

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LOS ANGELES: National Football League (NFL) prospect Michael Sam’s announcement that he is gay sparked an outpouring of support on Monday along with questions as to how it might affect his fledgling career.

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The ground-breaking revelation by the University of Missouri football defensive standout—in interviews with ESPN and The New York Times on Sunday (Monday in Manila)—means that he could become the first openly gay player in the hugely popular NFL.

US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Malcolm Smith of the Seattle Seahawks were among the many who used Twitter to praise Sam’s candor in the face of an NFL culture long perceived to be hostile to homosexuality.

“Congratulations on leading the way, @MikeSamFootball,” a message on Obama’s official Twitter feed said. “That’s real sportsmanship.”

Michelle Obama called Sam “an inspiration to all of us.”

How well Sam will be received by the league, however, remains to be seen, as Smith’s tweet recognized.

“There is no room for bigotry in American sports,” wrote Smith, the Seahawks linebacker who returned an interception for a touchdown and recovered a fumble to set up another in Seattle’s 43-8 rout of Denver in Super Bowl 48 this month. “It takes courage to change the culture.”

Sam’s revelation will also test the courage of NFL team executives in next May’s draft of new talent.

At the University of Missouri last season, Sam led the powerful Southeastern Conference with 11.5 quarterback sacks and 19 tackles for a loss of yards. The Tigers fell to Auburn in the SEC title game but finished the season 12-2 and won the prestigious Cotton Bowl.

AFP

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