Michael Sam — the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team — broke his silence on the homophobic and racist emails sent by former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, saying he expects to see an ensuing league-wide “crack down” on bigotry.
Sam, 31, was referenced in the hate-filled emails sent by the Super Bowl-winning coach first reported Monday by the New York Times, calling NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a gay slur while claiming he should not have pressured the Rams to select “queers” in the 2014 draft.
“They will definitely crack down on bigotry like that,” Sam said when asked how he hoped the NFL would respond to the controversy rocking the league, USA Today reported.
The former defensive end spoke during a webinar hosted Wednesday by Georgia’s Augusta University billed as a “Courageous Conversation with Michael Sam,” university officials said.
Sam characterized Gruden’s remarks as “unfortunate, especially that the first active gay player who’s playing is on the same team,” a reference to Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib, who came out in June.
Team officials said Wednesday Nassib stepped away from the Raiders to “process” the emails sent by his former coach sent between 2011 and 2018.
Gruden told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in June after Nassib came out in an Instagram video that he supported the five-year league vet.
“I learned a long time about what makes a man different is what makes him great,” Gruden texted the newspaper.
But Sam said Wednesday that Gruden’s public endorsement now rings hollow, USA Today reported.
“So it almost seems like, you know, how the whole team would rally around [Nassib], but again, it almost seems like it was just for show,” Sam said. “So are you really a part of it, or are you not? It’s moving in that direction, so if you’re not part of it, you need to find another profession.”
Sam, who was drafted in 2014 by the then-St. Louis Rams, was cut by the team months later. He then joined the Dallas Cowboys practice squad that fall before being cut again a month later, and he played in the Canadian Football League in 2015. He never appeared in a regular-season NFL game despite being a standout at the University of Missouri who was named the SEC’s co-defensive player of year in 2013.
Sam said there are other gay players throughout the league who don’t feel comfortable sharing their sexual orientation.
“I know guys who are struggling in the NFL and not able to come [out],” Sam said Wednesday.