Michael Sam has left the Montreal Alouettes, throwing his future in professional football into question. This departure from the team will not be weeks but will be long-term. The defensive end who just last week was the first openly gay man to play in a regular-season professional football game in North America has likely already seen his last snap with the team.
Outsports has learned that this departure is again for personal reasons, like his leave of absence from the team in June, and not for performance reasons.
The last 12 months have been very difficult for me, to the point where I became concerned with my mental health. Because of this I am 1/3— Michael Sam (@MichaelSamNFL) August 14, 2015
going to step away from the game at this time. I thank the Alouettes for this opportunity and hope to be back on the field soon. Thank 2/3— Michael Sam (@MichaelSamNFL) August 14, 2015
you all for your understanding and support. 3/3— Michael Sam (@MichaelSamNFL) August 14, 2015
Sam's time in Montreal has been a roller coaster. After much fanfare about his signing, he left the team for personal reasons the day before his first preseason game in June. When he returned to the team it was revealed that he had ended his relationship with his then-fiancé. In July he allegedly struggled to get into football shape, and reports claimed dissension on the team due to "preferential treatment" of the openly gay player.
He appeared in his team's game at Ottawa last week but did not record a sack or tackle in limited action. Last night he was not present for his team's game against the Edmonton Eskimos, either on the roster or in the stadium.
Now his longterm leave of absence from the team leaves his entire football future in doubt. His only way back to the NFL is almost assuredly through the CFL. If he doesn't suit up and perform in the CFL, there's not getting back to the St. Louis Rams, Dallas Cowboys or any other NFL squad. Now the reaction by fans and writers on social media and beyond is already absolutely relentless and brutal.
It is all so heartbreaking. Sam has clearly struggled with adapting to the spotlight and the world of professional football. Slotted as a draft pick and regular contributor 18 months ago, we have watched as every step forward has been met by a step backward for his career. While other gay athletes have made their way through sports, no one can fully understand what Sam has been through - No one has ever done what he's done either before or after his announcement in February 2014.
Whatever Sam is dealing with now, we hope he finds solace and direction and, if he wants to play football again, that he finds his way back onto the gridiron.