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SEC gives Sportsmanship Award to Michael Sam's Missouri football team

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The way the team handled and embraced Michael Sam's coming out as gay last season earned the Missouri Tigers football team respect from SEC athletic directors.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Southeastern Conference athletic directors have voted to award the conference's 2013-14 sportsmanship award to four teams, including the University of Missouri football team. Michael Sam came out to the team as gay last summer, and the team went on to a fantastic 12-2 season and a Cotton Bowl win. From the SEC press release:

"Sportsmanship, civility and social responsibility are marks of character that last a lifetime," said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. "We are proud of these teams from Missouri, Tennessee and Georgia and the women's golf coaches of the SEC for setting an example for us all."

The University of Missouri received acclaim for the way its football team supported and protected teammate Michael Sam during the 2013 season. Unknown to the outside world, Sam told his teammates in August pre-season camp of his sexual orientation. Sam determined that he did not want to disclose that fact publicly until after the 2013 season was over. His teammates respected those wishes while they accepted and supported him throughout the 2013 season.

It's awesome that the SEC athletic directors have acknowledged the special football season the Missouri Tigers had last season. Except, just one tidbit...many local media members did know. People did talk. It's awesome that the team rallied around Sam and made sure his sexual orientation wasn't an issue, but the secret was known outside of the locker room. It's not clear how they knew - whether it was teammates or other students - but it wasn't a well-kept secret in the Missouri community. That speaks well of Sam's teammates, coaches, fellow classmates and even the local media. They all let Sam tell his story on his terms.

Again, it's a powerful statement by the SEC and one that is welcome!