Reaction is pouring in from the sports world and beyond after Michael Sam announced yesterday that he is gay. Sam says he decided to come forward now because he knew there were already rumors about his sexuality, and he wanted to come out proudly, and on his own terms.
However, in a sport where no other player has done so before, it's a bold move and a potential risk. The University of Missouri defensive lineman is a solid NFL prospect, and is now in line to become pro football's only openly gay player. He was first team All-American, SEC defensive player of the year and was voted the University’s M.V.P. by his teammates.
James Brown, the host of "The NFL Today" on CBS Sports and a CBS News special correspondent, told the “CBS This Morning” co-hosts that there is “no question” that this is a “watershed” moment for the league.
“I think any time you have a first in any segment of society, it is a watershed moment,” he said. “While there may be those who suspect that there are players in the league currently that are (gay), the fact that young Mr. Sam is publicly stating this, is a first and there will be a significant test.”
One player, New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma has already said that he could be uncomfortable in a locker room with a gay teammate and Brown said that he’s “not in the minority with respect to that attitude.”
“That will be the kind of environment by and large that Mr. Sam, if he makes a team, will be walking into,” said Brown. “A very macho environment, testosterone laden and players will be looking with raised eyebrows, by and large, for sure.”
When asked, Brown also discussed how this announcement could impact Sam’s chances during the NFL draft. He said that his “suspicion” was it would “absolutely” have an effect.
“The brain-trust of any team will have to make the determination … whether they want the ongoing scrutiny that will attend any team signing him and that’s not only in their local community where the team is based, but also around the league and whether or not the team is capable of handling that kind of distraction,” said Brown.
The NFL released a statement saying "We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage ... And look forward to welcoming and supporting him in 2014."