All-America defensive end Micheal Sam’s candor is paving the way for college athletes right here in Connecticut. Sam is a top prospect in the NFL draft in May after starring at the University of Missouri, and he could become the first openly gay player in the history of the NFL.
“I came to tell the world that I’m an openly, proud, gay man, ” Sam told ESPN.
Stefan Palios is excited about Sam’s candor. Palios is a shot-putter on the men’s track and field team at Yale.
He revealed his sexuality to his teammates when he got to the university.
“When I owned my identity and was like, ‘Yes, I’m gay,’ My teammates were like, ‘That’s cool,’ and I’ve chatted with guys on the team about guys I’ve seen in the past. I ask about girls they have seen. It’s been a really cool thing because I wasn’t expecting it at all. I came out not remembering I was an athlete, and was like, ‘I have to tell my team,’ and it was fantastic. “
Palios says athletes like soccer star Robbie Rogers and former NBA player Justin Collins made huge strides coming out, but he says Sam’s timing is especially encouraging. “
“About this NFL draft, I think it’s really a great frontier where we get to move forward and say you can be out for your whole career. You can be who you are from day one. You don’t have to fear anything.”
Palios says high profile people coming out has far-reaching effects on society.
“We’ve got politicians coming out and celebrities coming out, and to see athletes I think is a really great way to break down the wall where a lot of society thinks athletics is the last OK place to be homophobic, and I think seeing all this representation really proves that is false.”
Palios hopes the visibilty of Sam’s story will make young athletes feel comfortable with who they are.
“My ultimate hope for anyone in the community is for them to feel safe and empowered about who they are on their team, ” Palios said. “They can own it and be successful, and being LGBT and being an athlete are not mutually exclusive communities. “