While defensive end Michael Sam came out to the general public on Sunday night, his teammates at the University of Missouri and several NFL teams already knew about his sexual orientation.
That knowledge began to spread during the Senior Bowl last month and Sam’s agent Joe Barkett said that led to a change in how his client planned to handle coming out on a larger stage. Sam had planned to make a public announcement after the draft, but decided that now was the time to do it after the experience in Mobile.
“I think the timing of Mike’s announcement was really based off of the reactions that we’ve received the last few weeks from not only front-office personnel, but journalists, as well. When we were in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, Michael was being approached by people left and right by people trying to break his story, and it was something Mike wanted to do after the draft originally,” Barkett said on NFL Network. “Then we kind of regrouped and discussed if Mike would still be able to do it on his terms at that point in time. And Mike and the rest of us felt that now this time was a little more appropriate where he could take control of the situation instead of being forced to tell his story after somebody else had broken it.”
It seems that most teams already knew or suspected Sam’s orientation and announcing it now assures everyone has the same information and is going into things with eyes open. Whether that changes their read on Sam as a player is something for them to figure out, but getting the word out earlier should allow Sam to deal with many of the inevitable questions and attention at the combine rather than when he’s supposed to be focused on transitioning to life with his new team.
Barkett said he has had conversations with scouts and personnel who don’t think his draft status will be significantly affected by his decision, although we’ve already heard otherwise from others about a player who has been projected to be a picked somewhere in the middle rounds come May.