In the rough and tough sport of football, Missouri All-American Michael Sam's decision to announce he's gay is being applauded by the White House. Sam could become the first openly gay player in the National Football League.
Seffner, Florida - In the rough and tough sport of football, a college player's decision to announce he's gay is being applauded by the White House. Michael Sam could become the first openly gay player in the National Football League.
STORY: Missouri all-american says he is gay
Sam is a University of Missouri All-American player expected to be drafted later in 2014. He says he told his college teammates last August, but he made the announcement public on Sunday.
"I'm not afraid of who I am. I'm not afraid to tell the world who I am. I'm Michael Sam. I'm a college graduate. I'm African-American and I'm gay," said Sam.
Local reaction has been swift.
Coach Sean Callahan has seen a lot in the past three decades of his career leading Armwood High School's football team to multiple state championships. He applauds Sam, saying his decision will open the door for other gay people, whether they're in high school, college or the pro's.
The University of Missouri recruits football players from his program.
"Not that change is easy but it is good. He's intelligent - a graduate and obviously got a very good support and he's very comfortable in how he is," Callahan added.
Callahan said times have changed, and while Sam's coming out is positive, he admits it's something that wouldn't have been accepted years ago.
"That would have been really tough - would have been really hard. Really. Back in those days nobody ever really came out."
"Homosexuality is no longer in the closet," said Frank Roder of the local Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network chapter.
It's part of a national group that's trying to change the game so that schools and athletics have an atmosphere that respects and promotes tolerance.
Roder says they currently have "Safe Space" programs in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas Schools. The goal is to provide a supportive and safe environment to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students so they're not harassed or mistreated.
Roder added they want to be inclusive for all students.
"This isn't just for gay kids; it's for all students so that schools are safer and more welcoming for all students."
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