'The eagle has landed'
The exclusive behind-the-scenes story of how NFL prospect Michael Sam came out as gay.
When Michael Sam kissed his boyfriend Vito Cammisano on ESPN in May after being drafted by the St. Louis Rams, it became the most-discussed sports story in the country for several days. Everyone had an opinion and it showed the power of the image and of the moment.
The kiss was one of the touchstones of Sam's year, one that made him a symbol for LGBT athletes everywhere. He was our easy choice for Person of the Year. No one brought the issue of gays in sports more to the national forefront in 2014 than Sam.
His coming out was more about owning his story than being a role model. Sam was out to the University of Missouri football team in 2013 and openly dated Cammisano. Sam was so open that he feared being asked about his sexual orientation by the media and having to lie or be evasive.
Along with his two agents and a publicist, Sam mapped out a media strategy to come out publicly. He chose Outsports, ESPN and the New York Times to tell his story. When the story broke on Sunday night Feb. 9, it became the talk to the country and overshadowed the Winter Olympics underway in Sochi, Russia. Sam's story had ramifications well beyond sports and it received huge media coverage.
The NFL Draft in May made Sam the first openly gay player to make an NFL roster when he signed with the Rams. He went through training camp and played well in the four preseason games. The Rams, deep at the defensive line position, cut him, and Sam was picked up a few days later by the Dallas Cowboys practice squad. He was quietly cut in November and ended the year out of football.
Sam still has NFL dreams and will focus in 2015 on being signed by an NFL team and go to training camp with the goal of making an active roster. But even if he never steps on the field during a regular season game, Sam's place in sports history is assured.
Person of the Year runners-up: Jason Collins, NBA. Collins made his big splash in 2013 when he came out publicly. But 2014 saw him take the court as an openly gay NBA player with the New Jersey Nets, the first to ever do this. Collins played in the last third of the season and throughout the playoffs and was a great ambassador for LGBT athletes for how wonderfully well he handled it all. And Fallon Fox, the trans MMA fighter. Fox has put up with more outward hostility than probably any other LGBT athlete in decades. She has persevered through it all and was undefeated in professional bouts in 2014. She is a true trail blazer and an inspiration for anyone who struggles against misunderstanding and outright bigotry.