While no one knows at the moment how Michael Sam’s draft stock will be impacted by his decision to announce that he’s gay, it’s clear that finding a good fit once a team picks him will still have challenges.
While there were a number of players supportive of his decision, including Buccaneers tight end Tom Crabtree, there were others who clearly didn’t seem comfortable.
Panthers cornerback Drayton Florence sent out a decidedly mixed message on Twitter in the moments after the announcement.
“No comment but it can be a distraction in the locker room,” Florence wrote. “At least he’s open with it much respect!”
Which sounds like a polite way of saying, “I respect it, as long as he’s somewhere else so it doesn’t distract me.”
Panthers teammate DeAngelo Williams was more pragmatic, saying: “I could care less about a man’s sexual preference! I care about winning games and being respectful in the locker room!”
At the Super Bowl, well before the announcement, Broncos cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was asked whether he thought an openly gay teammate could be successful in the NFL.
“It’s going to be hard,” he said, via Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News. I mean, in this league, you gotta shower with guys and be around guys. Some guys are going to be uncomfortable and some guys aren’t. It’s going to be hard for some guys to accept [a gay player].”
Asked if he would he be opposed to an openly gay player on his team, he replied: “That’s on that player. I have nothing against it. If a player is going to come out, he’s going to come out. You can’t look at him as different.”
That’s wishful thinking. Sam has singled himself out, and will be watched closely. And while his Missouri teammates were open and accepting last year, it seems clear that there will be some in his NFL locker room who aren’t sure about him yet.