All month long, Outsports is revisiting key moments in gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer sports history as part of LGBTQ history month. Today, we look at Michael Sam’s last day as an NFL player, five years ago today.
This was how we reported it on October 21, 2014:
This Michael Sam experiment in Dallas is over. the Cowboys announced Tuesday that they have cut Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player.
Sam was cut from the team’s practice squad to make room for a linebacker. Sam had been signed by the Cowboys in September after being cut by the St Louis Rams. Early reports had been that the Cowboys were happy with Sam, and there was no reason given for why he was cut. Sam spent seven weeks on the practice squad and was not called up to the active roster.
Just two days ago, Dallas owner Jerry Jones said Sam’s sexuality was a dead issue, and coach Jason Garrett spoke of how Sam was fitting in quite well.
Sam tweeted this after getting the news:
I want to thank the Jones family and the entire Cowboys organization for this opportunity, as well as my friends, family, teammates, (1/3)— Michael Sam (@MichaelSam52) October 21, 2014
and fans for their support. While this is disappointing, I will take the lessons I learned here in Dallas and continue to fight for an (2/3)— Michael Sam (@MichaelSam52) October 21, 2014
opportunity to prove that I can play every Sunday. (3/3)— Michael Sam (@MichaelSam52) October 21, 2014
Dallas was Sam’s last NFL team but not his last football team. In June, Outsports looked at the chapter that followed when we selected Sam as a sports player with “Stonewall Spirit.”
He never played in a single regular-season game in the NFL. That, Sam said, made him angry and led to depression.
Calling it mental illness, Sam said he had to learn to forgive, starting with himself. He forgave his father who he said abandoned the family, and his brothers, who he said abused him. But Sam struggled to forgive the NFL.
“The NFL gave me a raw deal,” said Sam, according to The Albuquerque Journal. “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.”
He’s had so many ups and downs: from the kiss seen around the world and receiving the Arthur Ashe Award at the Espys, to his disappointment in never playing anything other than in the preseason for the NFL.
The Rams drafted him, then cut him loose; the Cowboys signed him, then dumped him. His career with the Montreal Alouettes was short-lived, and his abrupt departure a sad end to a promising career.
Yet Michael Sam continues to pour his heart and soul into what he does off the field, from using his last dance on “Dancing With The Stars” to emotionally express his fractured relationship his homophobic father, to sharing his story with Oprah and inspiring others to live their own truth. and
Whatever his reasons, whatever led to the end of his associations with the Rams and Cowboys, Sam earned the title “Outsports Person of the Year” in 2014.
Tomorrow — and every day in October — we’ll look back at another moment in LGBTQ sports history.