It’s not often that the world is changed with a single phone call—and it’s even rarer that we get to watch it happen.
But when Michael Sam was drafted into the NFL Saturday, the cameras were rolling—and the result is a moving reminder that the political is always personal.
Sam, who is arguably one of the toughest players leaving the Southeastern Conference, wept openly and then shared a kiss with his boyfriend upon being told he was being picked up by the St. Louis Rams in the final round of yesterday’s NFL draft. With an All-American track record and the SEC award for defensive player of the year at the University of Missouri, many believe Sam should logically have gone much, much higher in the draft.
So why didn’t he? After a Buzzfeed article in February that claimed that the NFL locker room closet wasn’t “just closed; it’s locked,” Sam took the career gamble of officially outing himself to the New York Times and ESPN. Sam told the press that in anticipation of the media blitz he would receive given that he’d already unofficially come out to his team, he wanted to control how and when the news got out. He also risked not getting drafted at all in the notoriously homophobic sports league.
Instead, on Saturday, the St. Louis Rams announced the historic pick, the second-to-last choice of the entire draft, to massive cheers from the local audience and tears from Sam and supporters in San Diego. St. Louis won one of the best defensive ends of the year, Sam made history as the first openly gay football player in the NFL, and we got to celebrate a huge step for American equality.
Screengrab via YouTube