First openly gay player Michael Sam says NFL gave him ‘a raw deal’

St. Louis Rams draft pick Michael Sam addresses the media after becoming the first openly gay football player to be drafter in the NFL.

Football player Michael Sam said he did not feel supported by the NFL after he made history as the first openly gay athlete to be drafted by a team in 2014.

Sam reflected on his brief career as a professional NFL player—which came to a premature end in 2015 after he quit the sport citing mental health issues—while speaking at the University of New Mexico on Tuesday (February 12).

The 29-year-old said that to overcome those mental health issues, he had to do a lot of forgiveness—himself, family members who hurt him and who still do not accept who he is, and also the NFL, reported the Albuquerque Journal.

“The NFL gave me a raw deal. It was tough to forgive them.”

— Michael Sam

“The NFL gave me a raw deal,” Sam was quoted as saying. “It was tough to forgive them. I love football. Football gave me an education and gave me the opportunity I so desperately needed at the time. I really am grateful for the sport.”

Sam, who came out to his college teammates before his senior year at the University of Missouri and then won the title of SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, said he had expected to be drafted in the late second round—but he wasn’t drafted in the St. Louis Rams until the seventh round, one of the last pics that year.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, Sam told the students he regretted coming out before the draft, believing it had hurt his career chances. It is a feeling the former NFL player has expressed before.

“I think if I never would have came out, never would have said those words out to the public, I would still be currently in the NFL,” he said in a 2016 interview with Edge of Sports.

Vito Cammisano (L) and football player Michael Sam kissing as they attend the 2014 GQ Men Of the Year.

Michael Sam and Vito Cammisano had been together since college, but they broke up in June 2015 ending a six-month engagement. (Jason Merritt/Getty for GQ)

At the time, he celebrated the news of the draft kissing his then boyfriend Vito Cammisano, a story that made headlines.

“Who the hell was I supposed to kiss?” Sam said, reflecting on that moment at the February 12 event, quoted in the student publication Daily Lobo.

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