Sexual Orientation? In Poll, NFL Players Say They Don’t Care

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When Missouri defensive end Michael Sam came out as gay last week, the news sent a shockwave through the football world. Although Sam is not a professional player yet, as he prepares for the National Football League combine and his potential draft into the league, he would become the first openly gay active player in the NFL’s long history. Now this isn’t to say that there have never been gay players before. However, none made the decision to come out while playing.

Sam’s announcement last week was mostly met with positive feedback, whether it was tweets of support from current NFL players or the news that his Missouri teammates knew about Sam’s sexual orientation this entire past season and responded with acceptance. But some NFL executives, who remained anonymous, said Sam’s coming out could potentially lower his draft stock, despite not affecting his ability.

Not withstanding a few negative reactions last week, there is a positive trend moving forward. In an anonymous survey on ESPN’s ”NFL Nation,” 51 current players were asked questions about their opinions of sexual orientation in the NFL. While there wasn’t complete acceptance (86 percent, or 44 of the 51 polled, said it is false that a player’s sexual orientation matters to them), it seems that Sam, assuming he’s drafted, would be welcomed into an NFL locker room.

This past year, Sam was given the Southeastern Conference’s defensive player of the year award. His 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles led the conference in both categories, and he dominated opposing tackles on the edge all season. After his announcement, Sam was projected to be a third- to fifth-round draft pick despite his terrific senior season.

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