It’s been slightly more than a year since Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams. Up until Friday, the NFL‘s first openly gay athlete had precious little to show for it—the Rams cut him before the season began and the Cowboys picked him up for their practice squad before eventually cutting him midway through the 2014 season.
But on Friday, Sam received another chance — this time, it’s in Canada.
The Allouettes have signed Sam to a two-year deal—the second year is a team option—and they seem excited about the transaction.
“With the signing of Michael Sam, we have become a better organization today,” Alouettes’ general manager Jim Popp said in a statement. “Not only have we added an outstanding football player, we have added even a better person that brings dignity, character, and heart to our team.”
Said Sam: “I cannot wait to put on the pads, get back on the field and work hard each and every day with my teammates to bring a Grey Cup to the great fans here in Montreal.”
Though Sam has been a trailblazer for openly-gay professional athletes, that hasn’t helped land him an NFL job.
On the anniversary of Sam’s being drafted, the Daily Dot asked Cyd Zeigler, the cofounder of Outsports.com, whether anything had changed for gay athletes in the NFL.
“A year ago, there were no gay players in the NFL. And there isn’t today,” Zeigler said earlier this month. “The amount that NFL teams have done to mitigate homophobia in the league is minimal. The league itself has done virtually nothing to improve the situation. The NFL media has done a pretty good job covering these issues, but the fact that so few people are talking about why he’s not in the NFL is discouraging. It’s hard to say the situation has gotten better.”
The Canadian Football League obviously doesn’t have a problem with Sam’s sexual orientation.
Sam played well in the 2014 preseason with the Rams, recording three sacks—tied for the fourth-most of anybody in the preseason. Including this one.
But that performance still didn’t land Sam a job, leading Zeigler to this conclusion: “The NFL as a collective has sent a very clear message that if you’re gay, you’re going to be held to a higher standard,” Zeigler said. “If he hadn’t come out, he would have been drafted before the 249th pick and he would be on a team.”
Sam certainly wouldn’t be the first potential NFL player to move to Canada and then return to the States to play professionally. And for Sam, a stop in Canada could be the only path back to the NFL, just like it was for late-blooming greats Warren Moon, Doug Flutie, and Joe Theismann.
Michael Sam will do what Warren Moon did. He will go to Canada, play great, then sign in the NFL.
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) May 22, 2015
Screengrab via Boxing/YouTube