Everyone is celebrating Carl Nassib of the Las Vegas Raiders for being the first active NFL player to come out as gay, but there’s another former openly gay NFL player who some say is being left out of the conversation: Michael Sam.
Nassib came out yesterday in a video posted to Instagram.
“I just wanted to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay,” the 28-year-old said. “I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now but finally feel comfortable enough to get it off my chest. I really have the best life, I’ve got the best family, friends and job a guy can ask for.”
He also announced that he was making a $100,000 donation to the Trevor Project, which works to support LGBTQ youth and prevent suicide.
Almost immediately, Nassib was trending on Twitter. And not long after that, Sam was trending, too.
The former defensive end came out in 2014 and made history when he was drafted by the St. Louis Rams, although he never actually went on to make the roster, and there is still a lot of debate over whether his sexuality played a role in that.
Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk writes:
On one hand, Sam had been the defensive player of the year in the SEC. On the other hand, he didn’t have ideal size or speed to become a high-end NFL pass rusher. He almost wasn’t drafted; some in league circles still believe that then-Rams coach Jeff Fisher made the pick at the behest of Commissioner Roger Goodell. After Fisher cut Sam, Peter King reported that the league called around to the various NFL teams to find a spot for Sam on a practice squad. Ultimately, the Cowboys did it. But Sam never made it to a 53-man roster.
Florio notes that “impossible to know whether it would have been different for Sam if he weren’t gay, or if he had chosen to keep his sexuality private” but that he was always “at risk of being cut” given where he landed on the roster–as pick number 249 out of 256.
Conor Orr at Sports Illustrated has a slightly different take:
Sam, essentially, gave up his dream of playing football to be the league and media’s crash test dummy, as everyone in football’s orbit pinballed through ways to have thoughtful and productive conversations about sexuality and acceptance in the locker room.
Here’s what folx on Twitter are saying about it…
I’m happy for Carl but when Michael Sam came out all this energy being displayed today wasn’t the same for him.
— duranb. (@NHVSN) June 22, 2021
Shout out to Michael Sam. pic.twitter.com/4QYpcPGHEs
— Dino-Ray “Thotyssey” Ramos (@DinoRay) June 22, 2021
Having flashbacks to the insane news circus around Michael Sam coming out. And it seems like an entirely crazy, far away era. It was 2014.
— Sam Stein (@samstein) June 21, 2021
Michael Sam was the first—he got chased out of the NFL.
— Rebecca Phillips Epstein (@thephillistein) June 22, 2021
Let’s not forget how the NFL did Michael Sam
— Shon ???? (@gayblackvet) June 21, 2021
I hope the NFL has Carl Nassib’s back and they don’t do him like they did Michael Sam
— Dre ? (@Clapped_Dre) June 21, 2021
Semi-related: I know lots of football people think Michael Sam was bad and that was the end of the story but I also don’t think he truly got a fair shot at making an NFL roster. We might never agree on this and that’s fine but I really do wish he’d come along a few years later
— Joel D. Anderson (@byjoelanderson) June 22, 2021
Not tryna shit on nassib but i remember Michael Sam coming out and he was essentially removed from the league. Now Nassib comes out and and everyone is happy for him ????
— #RespektTheSpecs??? (@Troyskilover6) June 22, 2021
Major props to Carl Nassib for blazing the trail.
But he shouldn’t be the first “active” NFL player to be openly gay. The NFL should’ve given Michael Sam a better chance to break that barrier seven years ago.
— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) June 21, 2021
I keep thinking about how dirty the world did Michael Sam. How dirty they do Black queer men in general, really.
— Dr. Jon Paul (They/Them/Tired)?????? (@DoctorJonPaul) June 22, 2021
And then there is Sam himself.
This morning, the 31-year-old tweeted two statements. The first was a message of support to Nassib and the second was a message of support to the LGBTQ community.
“Carl Nassib thank you for owning your truth and especially your donation to the @TrevorProject,” the first tweet read. “LBGTQ people are more likely to commit suicide than heterosexuals. I hope and pray people will take note to this. Thank you again Carl and look forward to seeing you play on the field.”
Carl Nassib thank you for owning your truth and especially your donation to the @TrevorProject. LBGTQ people are more likely to commit suicide than heterosexuals. I hope and pray people will take note to this. Thank you again Carl and look forward to seeing you play on the field.
— Michael Sam (@MichaelSam52) June 22, 2021
He followed that up with another tweet, writing: “To anyone young or old, black or white, straight or gay are being bullied by others please know this, I stand with you in your time of need and in your hour of triumph, I am your friend and your brother. Even though I may never see you, hug you, or even kiss you, I love you.”
To anyone young or old, black or white, straight or gay are being bullied by others please know this, I stand with you in your time of need and in your hour of triumph, I am your friend and your brother. Even though I may never see you, hug you, or even kiss you, I love you ?
— Michael Sam (@MichaelSam52) June 22, 2021
Graham Gremore is the Features Editor and a Staff Writer at Queerty. Follow him on Twitter @grahamgremore.