NFL, Coaches, Teammates Encourage Sam in Coming Out

Michael Sam, an NFL prospect who publicly announced over the weekend that he is gay, has received words of encouragement from former teammates, his coach, the NFL, and a team owner.

BY Michelle Garcia

February 10 2014 5:44 PM ET

Michael Sam (#52) and Donovan Bonner (#8)

Two of Michael Sam's former teammates expressed well wishes and congratulations to the defensive lineman and NFL hopeful who came out to ESPN and The New York Times over the weekend.

Donovan Bonner, who played with Sam for five years at the University of Missouri, said he was proud of his teammate and his "tremendous amount of courage." He tweeted, "We knew of his status for [five] years, and not one team member, coach, or staff member said anything [and that] says a lot about our family atmosphere."

Another teammate, linebacker Kentrell Brothers, said, "It takes a lot of courage to do what he did. And we are behind him all the way."

Not only did Missouri's head coach Gary Pinkel say that he was happy for Sam, but he added, "We're proud of him and how he represents Mizzou."

But now that Sam has graduated and looks toward the NFL Combine, the young defensive lineman now faces a league with a mixed record on LGBT people instead of a football team that respected him without reservations.

Though the combine and scouting events like the Senior Bowl are known for prospective players being asked whether they have girlfriends, or if they've ever dated someone of the same gender, the NFL itself is trying to present a less homophobic face. In recent years the league added a policy that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage," league officials said in a statement Sunday night. "Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the N.F.L. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”

Steve Tisch, the co-owner of the New York Giants, is one team owner who says he hopes Sam doesn't get passed up during the draft because of his sexual orientation.

"Michael Sam is a gifted athlete and a courageous man," he told TMZ. "I hope any NFL team would not hesitate to draft Michael if he is right for their team."

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