NFL commentator: Michael Sam will inspire more players to come out

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

NFL pundit Neil Reynolds has said Michael Sam’s drafting will inspire more NFL players to come out, in an exclusive interview with Pink News.

Sam made history when he was drafted to the St Louis Rams in the seventh draft earlier this month, becoming the first openly gay NFL player.

Reynolds, a veteran commentator who currently presents Sky Sports’ NFL coverage, told Pink News: “I’m sure there are a number of other gay players already.

“I hope that other players realise Michael Sam is not being vilified at every turn, his life’s not being made a misery.

“It’s all just about what they can do on Sundays, and hopefully others [will] start coming out as well.

“Michael Sam did it right at the start of his career. You can make these announcements, you can be true to yourself, you can be a successful sportsman.”

Speaking about Sam’s later-than-expected draft to the Rams, he said: “I think people thought early on he might be in the third or fourth round of the draft.

“In the end, I don’t think they were put off by his personal life. He has some limitations as a defensive player.

“There’s a cynical side of it – it’s good business for the Rams, he’s going to sell tickets, he’s going to sell jerseys.

“But they are not afraid to make historic moves, whether it’s right or wrong – they were also the first time to sign an African-American player, Kenny Washington.

“They’ve always been that way!”

Oprah Winfrey had announced earlier this week that she had commissioned a documentary series following Sam as a player.

However, it was announced on Thursday that following a meeting with the Rams, the documentary had been shelved to allow Sam to focus on his career.

Reynolds said: “I think there is a danger [of media attention distracting him], and to Michael Sam’s credit, he’s right to put off the Oprah documentary for a year.

“There’s a rule of thumb that rookies should be seen and not heard – he’s been conscious of that and he’s made the right decision for now.

“There will be incredible interest in his story, and part of that is the announcement he made before the draft.

“It’s a wonderful story, and for all the right reasons he’s getting a lot of support from the public, but he needs to concentrate on his playing career.”

Sam shared an on-screen kiss with his boyfriend after being drafted, prompting outrage from some conservative pundits, including Dallas TV host Amy Kushnir.

Reynolds said: “I think [the issue] was overplayed a little bit, I don’t think it was an issue for fans watching.

“We see players all the time kiss their girlfriends when they’re selected, why should this be any different?

“I think it was something where people were looking for that story.

“The sports world moves on. I don’t think anyone was that outraged.”