Cleveland (WOIO) - Michael Sam, the Missouri Tigers defensive end and reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year, may have stunned the sports world on Sunday night when he told ESPN that he is gay, but his Missouri teammates knew his sexual preference six months ago, and as Sam says, rallied around him. The dynamic in an NFL locker room should be no different, as long as Sam can play, because that's your teammates really care about: can you play?
DeAngelo Williams, the Carolina Panthers running back, tweeted exactly that on Monday: "I could care less about a man's sexual preference! i care about winning games and being respectful in the locker room!" (@DeangeloRB).
Many other NFL players tweeted similar sentiments. And of course the league, and the players union, weighed in with their support.
The fact is, locker rooms are an enormous melting pot. Black, white. Christians, Muslims. Rich backgrounds, poor backgrounds. Straight, gay. And at the end of the day, all anyone cares about is, can you play?
Sam will face his share of taunting and abuse from opponents, but only because NFL players will use any edge they can conjure up during a game. And it'll stay on the field.
As for distractions, those will come from outside the room. The media. National reporters, tabloid shows...all will want a piece of this historic story, as Sam goes through the pre-draft workouts, the NFL Draft, and his first rookie camp. And it will eventually die down, especially if his recent announcement leads others to follow his path.
And in the end, the only question that will matter is, can he play? If he can, at the NFL level, that will be the most powerful statement, and bit of activism, he can make.