Ex-NFL pro O’Callaghan comes out as gay

Ryan O’Callaghan when he played for New England, left, and today

Ryan O’Callaghan, a former lineman for the world champion New England Patriots and later the Kansas City Chiefs, has come out as a gay man, and says he believes that the NFL is ready for openly gay active players.

O’Callaghan told OutSports.com that he had wrestled with his sexuality throughout his NFL career and that he used football “as kind of my cover for my life.” He also said that he had planned on committing suicide when his pro career ended, because he couldn’t imagine a life as a gay man without football as his “beard.”

He had written a note and had a cabin full of guns waiting on him. But, he said, the Chiefs trainer, David Price, realized something was wrong and encouraged O’Callaghan to speak to the team’s counselor, Susan Wilson. Wilson told O’Callaghan that before he killed himself, maybe he should find out if he “needed” to kill himself. So O’Callaghan came out to his family and friends, and their acceptance changed his life.

Read O’Callaghan’s complete interview with OutSports.com here, and watch the SB Nation video of him telling his story below.

O’Callaghan story breaks at the same time that word comes the NFL is considering taking all Texas locations out of consideration for hosting the next draft or future Super Bowls because state lawmakers are set to consider a “bathroom bill” that would prohibit transgender people from using the appropriate public restroom facilities.

Kind of blows all kinds of holes in Dan Patrick’s claim that a bathroom bill would’t hurt the state, don’t it?

—  Tammye Nash

Michael Sam signs with Montreal Alouettes, plays first game on June 25

michaelsam1Michael Sam has signed a deal to play with the Montreal Alouettes this season, the team announced today (Friday, May 22). His first game with the Canadian Football League team will be on June 25 against the Ottawa Redblacks.

The NFL’s first out gay football player had it rough until now. He was considered a top NFL prospect in his final year at the University of Missouri at Columbia but was only recruited by the St. Louis Rams in the final round. Many commentators and observers, including local sports anchor Dave Hansen, suggested homophobia played a role during the process and when he was later released by Rams.

Sam then briefly had a role on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad.

“With the signing of Michael Sam, we have become a better organization today,” said Alouettes’ general manager, Jim Popp. “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.”

Sam said in a statement he was excited to join the team:

“I am very excited and proud to join the Montreal Alouettes and want to thank team Owner Robert Wetenhall, General Manager Jim Popp and Head Coach Tom Higgins for this opportunity. 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.”

Canadian football is just like U.S. football except there are 12 players on a Canadian football team, according to David Taffet, the Voice’s football expert.  But additionally:

1. The 12th player plays a backfield position.
2. And the field is 110 yards long and 10 yards wider than a U.S. field. Each team only gets three downs to gain 10 yards.
3. Then there are rule differences — mostly rules adopted by the NFL during the past 50 or more years and never changed by the CFL.
4. The CFL has nine teams and the regular season begins in June. The playoffs, called the Grey Cup, are in mid-November.
5. The Montreal Alouettes won the Grey Cup in 2009 and 2010. Last year, the Calgary Stampeders took the cup and in 2013 it was the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

His jersey, number 94, is already for sale on the Aoulettes website.

—  James Russell

20 years after the Violence Against Women Act, how far have we come?

 

President Barack Obama issued a proclamation today recognizing the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act and calling “upon men and women of all ages, communities, organizations and all levels of government to work in collaboration to end violence against women.”

The proclamation comes a day after TMZ.com released video footage of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his then-girlfriend/now-wife Janay Palmer out cold in an elevator — video footage that prompted the Ravens to terminate Rice’s and prompted the NFL to suspend him indefinitely. That sounds reasonable, except that the incident back in March and in July NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell only suspended Rice for two games. (Rice was originally charged with felony assault but the charges were dropped when Palmer refused to testify against him.)

Originally, the only video footage made public showed the moments after the elevator doors opened and Rice dragged the unconscious Palmer part of the way out of the elevator and then left her laying in a heap on the floor. The video released this week by TMZ, taken by a camera inside the elevator, shows the brutal punch to the face that knocked her out.

As President Obama said in his proclamation today, it was 20 years ago that “our nation came together to declare our commitment to end violence against women.” The VAWA “created a vital network of services for victims,” expanded the number of shelters and rape crisis centers across the country, and established a national hotline, the proclamation says. The VAWA also “imrpoved our criminal justice system and provided specialized training to law enforcement … . It spurred new state laws and protections and changed the way people think about domestic abuse … .”

But watching that video of Ray Rice punching Janay Palmer and considering the NFL’s initial lackluster response, it doesn’t seem like we’ve made much progress toward that goal.

Add in some statistical information, and it’s even more discouraging.

According to UNWomen.org, the website for the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, a global review of available data conducted in 2013 (World Health Organization, Global and Regional Estimates of Violence against Women) shows that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence . But some national studies show that up to 70 percent of women have experience sexual or physical violence from an intimate partner.

The UNWomen website goes on to cite The World Health Organization’s World Report on Violence and Health, which says that in Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, intimate partner violence accounts for between 40 and 70 per cent of female murder victims.

President Obama says that he was “proud to renew our pledge to our mothers and daughters by reauthorizing VAWA and extending its protections” last year. And while the VAWA has “provided hope, safety and a new chance at life for women and children across our nation,” the president acknowledges “we still have more work to do.”

“Too many women continue to live in fear in their own homes, too many victims still know the pain of abuse, and too many families have had to mourn the loss of their loved ones. It has to end — because even one is too many.”

Absolutely. But in the LGBT community we have to take it a step forward and remember that women are not the only victims of domestic violence, and men are not the only abusers.

According to a “fact sheet” published online by the Center for American Progress, 1 out of 4 to 1 out of 3 same-sex relationships has experienced domestic violence. And domestic abuse violence victims in same-sex relationships face threats that their abuser will “out” them at work or to family, some face the threat of having their children taken away, and some are even afraid of doing damage to the LGBT rights movement by admitting that domestic violence happens in our community.

These and other reasons make LGBT domestic violence victims more reluctant to report such violence to police, and leaves them feeling isolated, alone and helpless.

President Obama is right. We’ve got a long way to go. We in the LGBT community have to make sure we are part of the effort against domestic violence, not just in the country as a whole, but in our own community — our own homes — too.

—  Tammye Nash

Group plans ‘massive protest’ at Cowboys Stadium

o-GOSFORD-ANGLICAN-facebookThe American Decency Association announced that thousands of people will descend on the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington to protest the team’s hiring Michael Sam for its practice squad.

The organization, which opposes pornography and indecency in the media, originally planned to picket in St. Louis. The group’s plans changed when Sam was released by the Rams earlier this week and then signed with Cowboys. “We cannot just stand idly by as Christian values and morals are trampled. We will do whatever we can to preserve family values in this country,” said Jack Burkman, a conservative lobbyist and head of American Decency, in a statement.

“Jerry Jones has betrayed American values, Christian values, and his own city’s values. The people of Dallas — and Christians all across this land — are about to make him pay a huge financial price. The Cowboys are no longer America’s team.”

Evidently the out gay Sam is contrary to God’s natural design for football watchers: straight men who drink beer and yell a lot.

They must have overlooked Jones’ provocative photos partying with younger women.

Or maybe they just alternate picketing schedules with the Westboro Baptist Church.

—  James Russell

Michael Sam in Dallas: Dale Hansen’s take

sam.Hansen

Michael Sam, left, and Dale Hansen

As soon as we heard this week that Michael Sam was possibly coming to Dallas, my editorial staff and I started working on getting contacts for a story. We contacted the Dallas Cowboys public relations department. We contacted Sam’s agents. We contacted friends who contacted friends who knew somebody who knew …….

Well, you get the picture.

Wednesday afternoon late, I heard back from Sam’s agent, who informed me that Sam isn’t doing any “one-on-one interviews” right now because he just wants to focus on playing football. And you know what, I understand that. This is a young man who maybe didn’t get chosen as early in the draft as he might have been because of the media hoopla over the fact that he’s openly gay. He might have lost out on a spot on the St. Louis Rams roster for the same.

Everybody has been focused on Michael Sam’s sexual orientation and not his abilities as a football player. I am sure it’s frustrating for him. I understand that. Of course, as the largest LGBT newsmagazine in Texas, Michael Sam playing for the Cowboys is a story Dallas Voice has to go after. Even if we understand his desire to focus on football. Hopefully we can do it in a reasonable way, and talk about something other than what it might be like in the showers for Sam and his teammates (way to go, ESPN).

Yesterday, WFAA Channel 8 sportscaster Dale Hansen posted a piece on his blog, Dale Hansen Unplugged, that puts the situation in very clear, simple-to-understand terms: “He simply wants a chance.”

Hansen, who already won the hearts and minds of LGBTs across the country in February with his commentary on how ridiculous it is for the NFL to not have a problem with players who beat up their girlfriends, kill a teammate in a drunk driving accident or “lie to police to cover up a murder,” but then turn around and have such a huge problem with an openly gay player.

Hansen’s opinion on Michael Sam surprised a lot of people, and earned him a place of honor at this year’s Black Tie Dinner coming up in November.

This week, Hansen posted another Hansen Unplugged blog on Sam: “So the Cowboys decide to sign Michael Sam (and do we really need to say ‘The NFL’s first openly gay player?’ Geez, I hate hearing that every time his name is mentioned … and I would think he does, too).”

Hansen admits that Michael Sam being openly gay is a “very big” story, if for no other reason than “the first of anything is a big story.” At the same time, Hansen says he is fed up with the idea that Sam is too much of a “distraction” to play pro football. The real question is can Sam play at a pro level. “He simply wants a chance. The Cowboys are giving him that chance — nothing more, nothing less,” Hansen says.

As for all the other uproar, Hansen cemented his position as a valuable LGBT ally with this closing statement: “But the critics who are concerned about the decline of America because a gay man plays football disgust me, and I would hope they disgust you, too.”

Thanks Dale Hansen. We couldn’t agree more.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING: Michael Sam signs with Cowboys practice squad

Out NFL recruit Michael Sam has signed with the Dallas Cowboys practice squad.

He previously was with the St. Louis Rams.

Check with the Voice for more news about the historic pick.

 

—  James Russell

BREAKING: Michael Sam in talks with Dallas Cowboys

Michael.Sam

Michael Sam

The game’s not over for Michael Sam yet.

The first openly gay football player to be drafted by a national league, Sam meets with the Dallas Cowboys tomorrow to talk about joining the practice team, reports Outsports.

Sam was cut from the final round of drafts over the weekend by the St. Louis Rams. He was not considered for the practice team.

Earlier in the year, the Rams picked him in the last round of professional drafts.

The Texas native has said in the past that he grew up loving the Cowboys. A proud Texan (heehee!), he held out before signing with Mizzou because he wanted to go to A&M.

Hopefully we can welcome him home tomorrow.

—  James Russell

BREAKING: Michael Sam cut by St. Louis Rams

Michael.SamMichael Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay football player and a Texas native, was cut today, Aug. 30, in the seventh round of cuts by the St. Louis Rams.

The defensive player for the Rams may still be able to play for the practice team. “In order to place him on their practice squad, they would need to place him on the waiver wire for a day, thus making him available to the league’s other 31 teams,” The Los Angeles Times explains.

But NFL.com reports that “thirty-one other teams now have an opportunity to pluck Sam off waivers over the next 24 hours.”

Rams coach Jeff Fisher said he was pulling for Sam, who got along well with the team, but the decision to cut him was ultimately a “football decision.”

He added “[Sam] has the ability to play someplace. It’s gotta be the right place, it’s gotta be a fit.”

All of the seventh round drafts were cut to reach the maximum of 53 players.

The University of Missouri graduate became the first openly gay NFL player in the final round of drafting for the NFL earlier this year.

—  James Russell

St. Louis Rams draft NFL’s first openly gay player

michaelsam1

Michael Sam

Michael Sam was taken by the St. Louis Rams with the 249th pick in the NFL draft, The Washington Post reported.

The NFL stood on the brink of a historical decision Saturday and it took until nearly the end of the draft for Michael Sam to become the first openly gay player drafted into the league.

Sam, the SEC co-defensive player of the year at Missouri, was taken late in the seventh and final round by the St. Louis Rams with the 249th pick out of 256 over the three days of the draft. St. Louis is a great landing spot for him. The Rams have a stellar defense under Gregg Williams and he spent his college career just over two hours away.

Sam, filmed by ESPN as he received the phone call from Rams Coach Jeff Fisher, broke down and sobbed as he learned that he was going to the Rams.

A 24-year-old lineman from Hitchcock, Texas, Sam announced that he was gay shortly after the Super Bowl. His performance in the annual scouting combine was disappointing and many experts wondered if he would be drafted. Some questioned on Twitter just why Sam was going undrafted for so long, with only one SEC Defensive Player of the Year since 2004 not being taken among the first 33 picks in the draft. “For them not to select him would be very problematic,” Cyd Zeigler, the founder ofOutSports.com, said in a pre-draft interview with NBC News. “If he isn’t selected, it’s a public black eye on the league.”

—  Steve Ramos

Texas native and NFL hopeful Michael Sam talks nerves ahead of NFL draft

Screen shot 2014-05-07 at 1.04.39 PMMichael Sam hopes to make history Thursday as the first openly gay player in the NFL.

Sam, who came out earlier this year, spoke to Robin Roberts on Good Morning America Wednesday about the NFL draft and how anxious he is about the experience.

“I’ve been thinking about this moment since junior year in college,” Sam said. “It’s a very nervous time, an exciting time. So I’m ready for it.”

The former Missouri defensive end grew up in Hitchcock, Texas, said he doesn’t care which team selects him Thursday, as long as he can play in the NFL.

“Where I’ll go, it doesn’t matter, as long as I get to play and put a jersey on my back,” he said. “It’s just awesome. I’m going to be proud wherever I go.”

Sam is also being honored by ESPN with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for “his courage and honesty that resonates beyond sports.”

Watch the interview below.

—  Dallasvoice