Following the ground-breaking announcement that he is openly gay, Missouri Tigers stand-out defensive end Michael Sam will now begin the most difficult journey of his young life. After coming out to his teammates prior to this past college football season, Sam told the world that he is an openly gay, proud man as he prepares for the NFL Scouting Combine. While many league executives are predicting that Sam’s draft stock could fall, perhaps as much as a few rounds, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft will not let anything aside from whether or not a player can perform on the football field influence his judgment during the 2014 NFL Draft.
“We’re about winning,” Kraft said, according to the Boston Herald. “And anyone who can come in here and help us win, I personally don’t care what their ethnic background is, their racial background, the gender preference. If they can help us win, and they’re about team first, then I’m happy to have him here.”
Sam was co-defensive player in the SEC this past season, and came up with big plays at key times during Missouri’s impressive 12-win season, culminating in a huge Cotton Bowl victory over the Oklahoma State Cowboys. It was Sam who came up with a big strip-sack when the Cowboys were driving down the field looking for the tying or game-winning score against the Tigers.
Kraft has never shied away from a player whom he thought may be able to help the Patriots win, regardless of their past history. Some of them worked, at least for a time, such as Corey Dillon and Randy Moss, while others proved to be a non-factor, including Albert Haynesworth and Tim Tebow. Still, Kraft will never let anything dissuade him from taking a player he feels may be a good fit with the team and in the locker room, provided they are willing to adopt the “Patriots’ Way.”
“If a player were gay and came into this locker room, it would be the most supportive system,” Kraft said. “He’d gain strength by being in here. And it wouldn’t be divisive and he’d make friends for life and they could help him win.
“I really believe that,” he added. “And it was interesting to me that this young man announced to his teammates that he was gay before the season started. And they had a 12-2 record, they were in the SEC championship game, like us being in the AFC championship game, and they lost to Auburn and beat Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl.
“And he was co-defensive player of the year in the SEC. And that was after full disclosure. And that makes me happy. Maybe I’m naïve, but I really think, this is, what, 2014, and I think we’re all more receptive and accepting than we were,” Kraft said.
I hope that he is right. While I remain skeptical that there is still too much ignorance in this world, clearly including the world of professional sports, I do agree that coming to the Patriots would be perhaps the best fit for Sam in his NFL career.
I, for one, will be pulling for him.