NFL commissioner Roger Goodell took part in Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s “Wall Street Project” Wednesday in New York City, where he was asked about draft prospect Michael Sam’s decision to come out.
“Good for him,” Goodell said. “He’s proud of who he is and had the courage to say it. Now he wants to play football. We have a policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. We will have further training and make sure that everyone understands our commitment. We truly believe in diversity and this is an opportunity to demonstrate it.”
On Sunday, the SEC defensive player of the year told ESPN and the New York Times that he is gay. If drafted, he would become the NFL’s first openly gay player.
“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage,” the NFL said in a statement shortly after his announcement. “Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”
NFL teams have also offered their support.
“The 49ers commend Michael for the courage he has displayed, as he continues to pursue his NFL career,” 49ers GM Trent Baalke said in a statement Monday. “We have and will continue to evaluate him as we do every draft eligible player which is always based on their projected contributions to our team on and off the field.”
Baltimore Ravens President Dick Cass said he was disappointed that a player’s sexual orientation was such a big issue in 2014. In a statement on the team’s website, Cass stated, “I don’t think his being gay would be an issue at all for the Ravens…We’re all about winning. If he’s a good football player who can help us win games, he will be welcomed here.”
Cass pointed to the way he was received by teammates at Missouri, implying it could be done on an NFL level too. “He obviously knows how to be a good teammate.”
John Elway and the Broncos also lent support. “I applaud Michael Sam and wish him the very best as he continues the pursuit of his NFL dream,” Elway said in a team statement.
Like the 49ers, Elway said the team would evaluate him in the pre-draft process like any other prospect, “[on] the basis of his ability, character and NFL potential.”
Like Cass, Elway praised Sam’s ability to win over teammates.
“Having spent 16 years in an NFL locker room, the bottom line is that it’s about treating others with respect and earning that respect. By all indications, it appears Michael has done just that throughout his football career.”