SBD/February 14, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Goodell Voices Public Support For Sam As Players, Other Execs Continue To Weigh In

Goodell on Wednesday spoke at Jesse Jackson's "Wall Street Project" in N.Y.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday "offered public support" for former Univ. of Missouri DE Michael Sam, saying that he "commended Sam for his decision to publicly disclose that he is gay," according to Bob Glauber of NEWSDAY. Goodell, speaking at Jesse Jackson's "Wall Street Project" in N.Y., said, "Good for him. He's proud of who he is and had the courage to say it. Now he wants to play football" (NEWSDAY, 2/13). Giants WR Victor Cruz said an openly gay teammate "would be received just fine." He added, "We’re a team and organization that embraces any type of player. ... From a player’s standpoint I think (Sam) would be accepted everywhere, but it’s tough to tell." Cruz continued, "I think it will be easier for other athletes (now). You’re going to start seeing some guys maybe coming out" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/13). Redskins WR Pierre Garcon said of Sam, "He’s gotta deal with it every day, especially playing in the NFL. He’ll have questions from guys like you guys, but he’ll just have to deal with it. It’s part of being in the NFL where your life is an open book" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/12). One NFC team exec said of media coverage surrounding Sam, "I would think that this won’t die down once the season starts, either. You have to worry not only about the kid but his teammates. Football players and staff aren’t great when you get them talking about something other than football" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 2/14). Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross said Sam's announcement "is a significant step in sports and I respect the choice that he made publicly" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/13).

TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN': Red Sox P Craig Breslow said of the possibility of having an openly gay teammate, "I feel like sexuality is totally independent and irrelevant to what we’re trying to accomplish" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/13). ESPN's Bill Simmons said, "At this point, I would be much more surprised if anyone was a jerk to Michael Sam than I would be if they were supportive. It would be career suicide for them to come out against him, even if they felt that way. It is a much more tolerant society in 2014, and this guy is going to be looked at as an ambassador and somebody with a lot of guts." Simmons credited Sam and his publicist, Howard Bragman, for how they have handled the situation. Simmons said of Sam, "It seems that he has put a lot of thought into the decision and made it for really smart reasons, and it sounds like he really thought seriously about doing it before the season begins (in September). I think the eventual goal is three or four years from now, no one is going to give a crap about any of this stuff. It kind of doesn't really matter now -- it does and it doesn't ... People's general attitudes are that it's not that big of a factor, which is a great place for (society) to be. He does it, then two other guys do it, then three other guys come out. Once the numbers start adding up, I feel like it's not going to be a big deal anymore" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 2/12). In N.Y., William Rhoden wrote the early reactions to Sam's announcement "have offered hope." Now that his "cards are on the table, team owners, general managers and players will have to put theirs on the table as well" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/12).

SAM IN DEMAND: ESPN.com's Darren Rovell reported Sam's agent, Joe Barkett, has been "inundated with calls, including those from Fortune 500 companies." Barkett said, "Every time I'm on the phone, I'm getting phone calls. There's always one from a company expressing their interest in Michael. Name any type of industry, we've probably heard from a company in their sector in the last 48 hours." Barkett said that all the interest "is coming from mainstream companies, not gay brands that have a product or service to sell specifically to the gay population." Barkett: "We haven't really heard from companies that market specifically to the LGBT community. It has been large companies who obviously support LGBT initiatives" (ESPN.com, 2/12).
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