For Pride month, we’ve dedicated each day of June to an individual athlete or coach whose shining moment changed LGBTQ sports.
Today: Michael Sam records his first NFL sack in preseason against the Green Bay Packers on Aug. 16, 2014.
It’s fair to say Michael Sam entered Rams training camp with a bit more fanfare than normal seventh-round picks. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year came out prior to the 2014 NFL Draft, leading to a full-on media firestorm. When the Rams selected Sam with the No. 249 overall pick, he kissed his boyfriend on live television. It was one of the most powerful sports moments of the year.
Sam’s first and only training camp with the Rams was incident free, outside of a shoddy and unnecessary ESPN report about his showering habits. Chris Long came to Sam’s defense, telling ESPN “everybody” was over his sexuality except them.
Locked in a roster battle all summer, Sam recorded his first sack in Week 2 of the preseason, bringing down then-Packers quarterback Matt Flynn for a 10-yard loss. The following week, Sam sacked Johnny Manziel twice.
Michael Sam gets his first NFL sack! He beats the right tackle to bring down Flynn for a 10-yard loss. pic.twitter.com/8xhP2lPErs— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) August 16, 2014
Despite those sack numbers, the Rams released Sam on the final cutdown day. The Cowboys brought him onto their practice squad, but he was cut one month later. Sam played for the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL in 2015.
As our Cyd Zeigler has written, it’s impossible to believe Sam was not hurt by homophobia. If you believe he wasn’t, you’re ignoring what NFL executives themselves said publicly.
But still: Sam made history, and in August 2014, he showed an openly gay man can succeed at the NFL level — and mesh with his teammates. He will forever hold a special place in LGBTQ sports history.
We’ll bring you another Moment of Pride tomorrow and every day this month.