Out gay football player Michael Sam did not make the final cut to play on the St. Louis Rams this fall, the team announced today.
All NFL teams were mandated to cut down their roster to 53 players today by 4 p.m. EST, but the other 31 NFL teams will have an opportunity to pick up Sam within the next 24 hours, according to ESPN.
Sam went to Facebook and Twitter to react to the news, writing, "I want to thank the entire Rams organization and the city of St. Louis for giving me this tremendous opportunity and allowing me to show I can play at this level. I look forward to continuing to build on the progress I made here toward a long and successful career. The most worthwhile things in life rarely come easy, this is a lesson I've always known. The journey continues..."
In a news conference after Thursday night's preseason finale, Coach Jeff Fisher seemed undecided on whether to keep Sam. "I'm going to have to see the tape," he said, adding, "I didn't really see anything good nor bad out of Mike."
When pressed by a reporter on whether Sam is good enough for the NFL, he answered, "I believe he can play in this league, yes."
Sam was chosen 249th in the overall draft back in May, even though he was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year during his final season during college. During his pre-season play with the Rams, he made 11 tackles and three sacks, and after his final preseason game against the Miami Dolphins, Sam finished with a team-high of six tackles. Nonetheless, the team had a deep roster of defensive players already, and only one slot on the defensive line needed to be filled. That spot went to undrafted rookie Ethan Westbrooks.
Sam still is being considered to play on the team's practice squad, according to Outsports. If he does get pulled onto the practice squad for the whole season, he would earn $107,100, but had he made the 53-player roster, he would have earned $420,000 this season. He will reportedly be able to keep his $45,000 signing bonus.
"We believe Sam was cut for purely football reasons and there is zero evidence that it had anything to do with him being gay," Outsports writes.
The decision from the Rams caps a week in which ESPN issued an apology for its report on whether other Rams players were showering with Sam. The report quoted anonymous concerns from players on the team. In response, other Rams players publicly expressed their disappointment with ESPN and comedian Jon Stewart mocked the network on The Daily Show.