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

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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.

—  Anna Waugh

Jerry Jones: Dallas Cowboys would welcome a gay player

Jerry Jones

Jerry Jones

Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys and arguably the most famous of the league’s 32 owners, told Wade Davis, a former defensive back who came out in 2012, that he and the Cowboys would welcome an openly gay player.

“When someone like him speaks out, the world changes,” Davis told USA TODAY Sports.

Davis spoke to NFL owners, coaches and general managers about sexual orientation in sports on Wednesday in Orlando, Fla. Davis came out nine years after his last stint on an NFL roster ended and has already received positive feedback from meetings in New York with NFL officials, including commissioner Roger Goodell, over the past several months.

But there was a moment after his second presentation, this one to team owners on Tuesday morning, that confirmed to Davis just how much impact he had made in the quest to eliminate homophobia in the NFL.

But it wasn’t just Jones. It was coaches like John Fox of the Denver Broncos, who called Davis’ presentation the best he had ever seen at these annual meetings, and Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who said it is up to NFL owners to spearhead this culture change.

Respect in the workplace has been the overarching theme at the league’s annual meetings, from the fallout of the Miami Dolphins locker room bullying scandal to discussions about use of racial slurs to preparations for the league’s first openly gay player in former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, who came out last month and is preparing for the draft.

“I think the most important thing is that it is a matter of respect,” Blank told USA TODAY Sports. “How we live is more important than what we say about it. The guidance that we’re getting from the league is outstanding, and the attention that it is getting is outstanding. But is up to us to make sure it becomes a living part of our culture, with more sensitivity, more awareness of the impact of what we’re saying.”

Davis said he was approached by numerous coaches and other team executives to visit with teams. He hasn’t set up any presentations yet, but Davis and Troy Vincent, the former Pro Bowl defensive back who was named the NFL’s vice present of football operations, will work to set up a program for speaking directly to players.

“I might share more of my personal stories with players, but I’m going to let them know that hey, we don’t want to be treated any differently, we just want to be part of the NFL family, too,” said Davis, who played two years for NFL Europe and participated in three NFL training camps.

Fox’s Broncos team could be among those Davis visits this year, though Fox won’t wait to share what he learned in Orlando once he returns to Denver.

“You need diversification in everything — even sexual orientation. It has to be in the conversation,” Fox said. “I think it was very profound. It was definitely eye-opening for me.”

—  Steve Ramos

Lobbyist drafts bill to ban gays from NFL

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Jack Burkman

Washington lobbyist Jack Burkman on Monday said he is preparing legislation that would ban gay athletes from joining the National Football League, The Hill reported.

Burkman in a statement said he has garnered political support for the bill, though his statement didn’t mention any specific lawmakers who are behind it.

”We are losing our decency as a nation,” Burkman said in a statement. “Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man. That’s a horrifying prospect for every mom in the country. What in the world has this nation come to?”

Burkman said he came up with the idea after college football star Michael Sam publicly revealed he is gay a few weeks ago. If drafted, Sam would be the first openly gay player in the NFL.

Jason Collins on Sunday became the first openly gay athlete to play for a major men’s professional sports team when he suited up for the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets against the Los Angeles Lakers.

A number of Democratic lawmakers voiced their support of Sam after he revealed his sexual orientation in an interview with ESPN, and first lady Michelle Obama hailed him as an “inspiration.”

Burkman was not available to speak with The Hill, but in his statement, he urged Congress to act.

“If the NFL has no morals and no values, then Congress must find values for it,” Burkman said.

Burkman serves as founder and president of his own lobbying firm, Burkman Associates. He has also worked as of counsel at law firm Holland & Knight. In the 1990s, he served as counsel to then-Rep. Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.).

Burkman’s firm, JM Burkman & Associates, signed 70 new clients last year, the most of any K Street firm, a recent review by The Hill found.

The four-lobbyist firm specializes in helping companies secure contracts with the federal government.

—  Steve Ramos

WATCH: WFAA’s Dale Hansen says NFL is ready for an openly gay player

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WFAA sports anchor Dale Hansen addressed the shocking emotions last night surrounding University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam’s coming out over the weekend.

Hansen said Sam, who’s expected to be drafted by the NFL in the third to fifth round, should be welcome as the first openly gay player in the NFL, a league which has welcomed players who have committed domestic abuse, rape, murder and done drugs.

“You love another man. Well, now you’ve gone too far,” Hansen said about the reactions to Sam’s coming out.

Hansen continued to say the nation and the NFL should celebrate the differences of its players, adding that he might not understand what it’s like to be gay.

“I’m not always comfortable when a man tells me he’s gay. I don’t understand his world,” he said. “But I do understand that he’s part of mine.”

Watch the clip below.

—  Anna Waugh

College football star says he’s gay, may become first openly gay player in NFL

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Michael Sam

Michael Sam, the University of Missouri defensive end who was the SEC’s co-defensive player of the year in 2013, has come out publicly as gay, Outsports reported. If selected in the May draft or if signed as a free agent, he would become the first publicly gay player in NFL history.

Sam, 24, was out to his Missouri team last season and made his decision to go public about his sexual orientation less than two weeks before the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis, an event where draft prospects show off their skills and are tested by the 32 NFL teams. Sam’s story was published simultaneously Sundary in interviews with ESPN and the New York Times, and by Outsports.

“Once I became official to my teammates, I knew who I was,” Sam told John Branch of the New York Times. “I knew that I was gay. And I knew that I was Michael Sam, who’s a Mizzou football player who happens to be gay. I was so proud of myself and I just didn’t care who knew. If someone on the street would have asked me, ‘Hey, Mike, I heard you were gay. Is that true?’ I would have said yes.

“But no one asked. I guess they don’t want to ask a 6-3, 260-pound defensive lineman if he was gay or not.”

In coming out now, Sam said he wanted him being gay to be known to the fans and front office of any team that drafted him. It would also be less of a distraction to come out in February as opposed to after the draft, during summer training camp or during the season, his agents Joe Barkett and Cameron Weiss said.

“I want to own my truth,” Sam told the Times.

Asked if he was nervous about the step he is taking, Sam told people at a Saturday night dinner party at the Los Angeles home of publicist Howard Bragman: “You all are the ones who are nervous. I’m excited.”

Sam was a standout on the Missouri Tigers team that went 12-2, which included a win in the Cotton Bowl. His 11.5 sacks, 19 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles won him co-defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference, the highest-ranked conference in college football.

His honors this year were numerous: first-team All-SEC; first-team All-America from the Sporting News, Walter Camp Football Foundation, Associated Press, America Football Coaches Association and the Football Writers Association of America. His skills as a lineman have him projected by draft analysts to be selected this May anywhere from the second to fifth rounds, depending on how he performs in the combine and at Missouri’s pro day this spring. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. is high on Sam and projects him as a third- or fourth-round selection based on previous NFL history of players with similar skills.

Throughout high school, Sam considered himself bisexual and dated girls. It was only once he enrolled at Missouri that he finally realized he was gay. Once out to himself, he never tried to hide it and told his Missouri Tigers teammates officially before the 2013 season. While he said many people on the team knew or suspected, he told them all he was gay during a team bonding meeting in August. Players were asked to share something about them that no one knew, and Sam decided that this was the best time to let everyone know who didn’t already.

—  Steve Ramos

Was Manti Te’o pretending to be straight so he’d get to play in the NFL?

Why would a star college football player make up a story about a relationship with an out-of-town girlfriend?

If you have a girlfriend, no one is trying to set you up. You don’t have to go on embarrassing dates and pretend to be straight. You don’t have to deal with the woman falling in love with you and end up hurting her.

Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o came in second in Heisman Trophy voting this year and is expected to be a first-round NFL draft pick. That is, unless he has to have real girlfriends to play football.

Te’o “met” Lennay Kukua in 2011. Last fall, she had a terrible car accident and then was diagnosed with leukemia. She was a student at Stanford.

Apparently, Te’o’s relationship with her was entirely on Twitter. He made up the stories about actually meeting her. The Twitter account is gone, but Te’o claims he knew nothing about the hoax.

But stories of the relationship and how he went on to play to make her proud after she “died” were part of most Notre Dame games last fall.

And now, OutSports is asking the question: Is Manti Te’o gay?

—  David Taffet

Ex-NFL player comes out as gay

OutSports.com is reporting that Wade Davis, now 34 and a former player on the Washington Redskins football team, is gay.

Davis made the announcement, explaining why he felt he could not come out while on an active roster, here. He even talks about his boyfriend.

No active male player on an American team sport has ever come out, though members of the NBA, MLB and now NFL have come out after the fact.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Major League Baseball to ban anti-gay discrimination after letter from Resource Center

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Rafael McDonnell

Major League Baseball is set to ban anti-gay discrimination as part of a new collective bargaining agreement to be released today, following a request from Resource Center Dallas.

Last month, after the National Football League added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy, Resource Center’s Rafael McDonnell penned a letter to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig calling for pro baseball to follow suit.

McDonnell received responses from both Selig and MLB Executive Vice President Robert Manfred Jr. (Read their letters here and here.)

“While it is my policy not to comment on matters currently on the table, I think it is safe to say the issue you have raised will be addressed in a positive way,” Manfred wrote to McDonnell on Nov. 3.

Today, the New York Daily News is reporting that the new MLB collective bargaining agreement — which is set to be released this afternoon — does in fact ban anti-gay discrimination. From the Daily News:

Major League Baseball, which saw Jackie Robinson break the color barrier in 1947, Tuesday will announce incremental progress in another civil rights issue. The new collective bargaining agreement adds “sexual orientation” to its section on discrimination, a person with direct knowledge of the agreement told the Daily News.

Article XV, Section A of the MLB’s expiring Basic Agreement, in effect from 2006-2011, states: “The provisions of this Agreement shall be applied to all Players covered by this Agreement without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.”

In the new agreement, which will be made public Tuesday afternoon, the words “sexual orientation” will be added to the equivalent section.

McDonnell has also written a letter to the National Basketball Association calling for the NBA to ban anti-gay discrimination, but he said he has yet to receive a response.

Major League Soccer added sexual orientation protections in 2004, while the National Hockey League did so in 2005.

—  John Wright

Resource Center Dallas calls for NBA to join NFL in banning anti-gay discrimination

The other day we mentioned that the National Football League recently banned anti-gay discrimination as part of the league’s new collective bargaining agreement.

Now, Resource Center Dallas is calling on the National Basketball Association to follow suit.

Resource Center’s Rafael McDonnell provided Instant Tea with a copy of the letter he sent today to NBA Commissioner David Stern and Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBA Players Association, calling for the league to add sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy. The NBA is set to resume meetings Friday in an attempt to come up with a new collective bargaining agreement and salvage the upcoming season.

McDonnell says Major League Soccer added sexual orientation protections in 2004, while the National Hockey League did so in 2005.

“I am proud of the steps that the NBA has taken to embrace the LGBT community. Several teams have held LGBT fan nights,” McDonnell’s letter states. “The ‘Wordplay/Think B4 You Speak.com’ PSA that ran during last spring’s NBA playoffs show the league and the players association understand how words can be used to dehumanize LGBT people. Furthermore, recent penalties assessed against players show the league is serious about cracking down on disrespectful language.

“By adding the sexual orientation nondiscrimination language, the NBA not only joins the NFL, NHL and MLS. It joins nine of the Fortune 10 companies and 89% of the Fortune 500. It also sends a strong signal to the league’s LGBT fans that they are supported and affirmed, since professional sports have been described as one of the last bastions of homophobia.”

Read the full letter below.

—  John Wright