Michael Sam said he’s standing up for the kids in speech at Holocaust Museum

Posted on 27 Mar 2015 at 11:09am

Michael Sam spoke to a sold-out crowd Thursday night, March 26, as part of the Dallas Holocaust Museum’s Upstander speakers series.Sam.edit

WFAA sportscaster Dale Hansen introduced Sam. He noted not a word has been mentioned about new Cowboys player Greg Hardy and his history of domestic abuse, but some players continue to say how uncomfortable they’d be playing with a gay teammate.

Sam spoke about coming out, how he met his fiance, Vito Cammisano, and Dancing with the Stars.

He said when he came out to his team, the reaction was, “So, we already knew.” Other players realized they had never seen him with a woman.

When Sam first met Cammisano, they were freshmen. Cammisano was drunk at a party and dressed as a Playboy bunny. Sam said he looked like he needed some help, but Sam said Cammisano told him, “Get the ‘f’ away from me.”

Over the next two years, Sam said he ran into Cammisano, who was on the Missouri State swim team, a number of times and he remembers commenting, “I hate that guy.”

Finally they got together, but Cammisano said he couldn’t date someone who was hiding who he was. They broke up and got back together after Sam came out.

When he came out, his college teammates “stood up for me when the media ran outlandish stories about my showering habits.”

Sam talked about his difficult relationship with his family. Two brothers are in jail. Two siblings have died. His mother is a Jehovah’s Witness, so he wasn’t allowed to play football.

“What my father said to me [when I came out] was unforgivable,” he said.

Sam’s father said he loved him but disowned him. He said he still loves his father, but hasn’t spoken to him since then.

He spoke about his current appearance on Dancing with the Stars. When he first stepped into the ballroom, he said, he had never been so nervous in his life — even more nervous than the first time he stepped on the field in a preseason game.

He said his dance partner is working him hard, and because he missed a day of practice to appear in Dallas to speak, she was doubling up his rehearsals when he gets back. On Monday, March 30, he said to expect to see him salsa.

Sam said he didn’t blame homophobia on his current situation.

He said after he came out, he heard from a number — a large number — of players in the NFL who were gay but not out.

One teammate of his had a cousin who tried to commit suicide because she is lesbian. He said he spoke to her, probably saved her life and is still in touch with her. He said saving young people’s lives was more important than appearing in the NFL again.

“I’m doing this for the kids,” he said. “I have to stand up for others.”

The community reaction in the largely straight audience was overwhelmingly positive.

Max Glauben, a Holocaust survivor who was placed in a concentration camp as a teenager after fighting in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, said of Sam’s coming out, “How brave an act this was. Thank God we live in a country where you can do that. I’m real proud that I live in a country that allows freedom of speech, assembly and religion and you can do what you have to do to survive.”

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