Michael Sam on Saturday became the first openly gay man drafted into the National Football League after the St. Louis Rams picked him in the seventh round.
ESPN broadcast a video that showed the former University of Missouri defensive end breaking down as he received the telephone call from Rams coach Jeff Fisher that told him the team had picked him. His boyfriend, Vito Cammisano, was among those who were him in San Diego.
Thank you to the St. Louis Rams and the whole city of St. Louis. I’m using every once of this to achieve greatness!! pic.twitter.com/QESdOJVzsw
— Michael Sam (@MikeSamFootball) May 10, 2014
Fisher noted during a post-draft press conference that his team in 1946 drafted the first African American into the league.
“This is a second historic moment in the history of this franchise,” he said. “I’m honored to be part of it. Michael’s a good football player. They’re pretty excited to have him in the building.”
Rams defensive end Robert Quinn told Dan Hellie of the NFL Network that Sam has “proven himself on the field” with the Associated Press naming him the 2013 defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference. He was also selected as one of 10 unanimous first-team All-Americans.
“He’s a great player,” Quinn told Hellie. “He proved himself while he was in college.”
Brooklyn Nets center Jason Collins, who is the first openly gay person to play in a major American professional sports league, are among those who congratulated Sam.
“The St. Louis Rams just helped athletes everywhere feel more confident in their ability to be who they are and play the game they love,” said former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo. “I am thrilled that Michael Sam is being judged by his ability on the football field and look forward to supporting him in anyway to ensure that that he finds a welcoming environment in the NFL.”
“We congratulate Michael Sam and the St. Louis Rams on their terrific decision to draft him,” added Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. “Today, LGBT young people can look to Sam as proof that being open and proud of who you are doesn’t keep you from achieving your dreams.”
President Obama also congratulated Sam, the Rams and the NFL.
“From the playing field to the corporate boardroom, LGBT Americans prove everyday that you should be judged by what you do and not who you are,” a White House official told the Washington Blade on Sunday.
The Miami Dolphins late on Sunday announced it had fined safety Don Jones after he described Sam kissing Cammisano as “horrible” on Twitter.
The team also suspended Jones until he completes “education training for his recent comments.”
“We met with Don today about respect, discrimination and judgment,” said Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin in a statement. “These comments are not consistent with the values and standards of our program. We will continue to emphasize and educate our players that these statements will not be tolerated.”
“I take full responsibility for them and I regret that these tweets took away from his draft moment,” he said.
Sam, 24, came out in a February during a series of interviews with the New York Times and ESPN.
“Michael Sam has made a historic and courageous decision to live his authentic truth for the world to see,” said National Black Justice Coalition CEO Sharon Lettman-Hicks after Sam came out. “Sam continues the tradition of breaking down barriers for not only LGBT athletes who dream of playing professional sports, but all LGBT people, young and old, who seek to live openly, honestly and safely in their neighborhoods and communities.”
Sam on Thursday signed an endorsement deal with Visa.
Sam’s spokesperson, Howard Bragman, told the Washington Blade on Saturday the defensive end is not available for interviews.