The ground-breaking announcement from Missouri defensive end and NFL draft prospect Michael Sam to declare that he's gay puts him on a fast track to become the first openly gay current NFL player.
And the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year's declaration has been met so far by approval and tolerance around the NFL, including former NFL wide receiver and current ESPN analyst Keyshawn Johnson.
"I'm happy he decided to come out," Johnson told The Baltimore Sun in a telephone interview. "I think it's good. I'm sure it's a weight lifted off his shoulders. At the end of the day, if he can help you win, who cares? I don't think NFL teams are going to really care to be honest with you.
"There are already gay players in the NFL and have been for a while. They just haven't done what this guy has done and come out and said that they are. Everyone knew at Missouri about this and they played with him with no problem."
Several draft analysts have graded Sam as anywhere from the third round to the fifth round. And owners and general managers and coaches have released statements saying they would welcome Sam on their football team.
As far as Johnson is concerned, though, he's reserving judgment on how truly inclusive the NFL is in May when the draft starts and it comes down to action and which team drafts Sam.
"It will be interesting to see which owner and general manager steps up and draft him," Johnson said. "Show us. You say all the right things. Now, let's see now if you draft him. If you don't draft him and you draft somebody else in that same spot or if Michael Sam goes undrafted, if you make a mistake and don't draft him, then that's a black eye for the league because he's a draftable player. It's going to be interesting to see. The league can't let him being gay hurt his draft stock. They can't discriminate. It's not right. We'll all be watching to see how the NFL handles this."
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