Is the NFL ready for Michael Sam?

The transition from college football to the NFL can be overwhelmingly difficult for many of the players that are given a chance by NFL teams. For former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, the co-SEC defensive player of the year, and soon-to-be the first openly gay NFL player ever, the college to NFL transition could be more difficult.

Last week, Michael Sam announced that he was gay. This comes months before the NFL Draft, where Sam is expected to be a mid-round draft pick.  Since the announcement, Sam has received support from his teammates at Missouri, and some of the Tiger players have said that his announcement had not changed their relationship with Sam.

However, Sam will be joining a new team come May, and with this new team will come new players, in a new locker room. This time Sam’s teammates will know that he is a openly gay man before they meet him in person.

A survey conducted after Sam’s announcement, as reported by ESPN, asked 51 anonymous NFL players if a players sexual orientation mattered to them.  44 said no, which made up 86% of those asked, and 7 players answered that sexual orientation did matter.

However, 32 of the 51 players also answered yes when asked if they had teammates or coaches who made homophobic slurs, compared to the 19 players who answered no.  Finally, the players were asked if they thought an openly gay player would feel comfortable in an NFL locker room with 25 saying the player would feel comfortable, 21 answering no, and 5 players who chose not to answer.

We like to think that as a society we have come a long way in accepting everyone as equals, but the results of the survey make it apparent that Michael Sam will have to deal with some teammates and opposing players who will not accept his announcement, as well as the homophobic culture that is sometimes present in men’s sports.

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