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Out University Student Hugged by Gay NFL Player: "It Felt Like Acceptance."

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Feb 20, 2019

The first openly gay football player to be drafted by the NFL, Michael Sam, told students at the University of New Mexico about his experiences, saying that his college team at the University of Missouri knew he was gay and didn't care — except, that is, for one moment when a teammate hurled an anti-gay epithet at him, reported local newspaper the Albuquerque Journal.

After being drafted by the Rams in 2014, Sam added, he endured another moment of anti-LGBTQ hostility when a fellow member of that team similarly hurled a slur. Sam related that he didn't simply take the slur.

And it was the NFL, Sam went on to say, that treated him worse. Though drafted by the Rams, he did not play in a single regular season game, being cut by the Rams before the start of the regular season. He later played with the Dallas Cowboys on the practice squad and then joined the Montreal Alouettes, which are part of the Canadian Football League.

"The NFL gave me a raw deal," Sam told the students during his Feb. 12 speech, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Various media outlets seized on a passing comment in which Sam described feeling depressed and doubtful, and disclosed that he experienced a passing moment in which he questioned having been open about being gay from the very start of his career.

"I said, did I do the right thing? Should I have kept quiet?"

But boyfriend Vito Cammisano — Sam's significant other since college, and the man he famously embraced with a kiss of elation when the Rams drafted him — made everything worthwhile, he said, going on to describe how just at that moment of doubt Cammisano appeared at his side to offer loving support.

Recalled Sam, "I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked around and it was Vito... And like, it just made me feel so good, I don't care what happens in this draft. I love this guy."

Sam went on to appear on "Dancing with the Stars" in 2015. He is now retired from football and is a motivational speaker.

When an out lesbian student spoke up and shared that she has experienced moments of shame and regret, Sam left the stage in order to give her a hug, in a show of the kind of support he had received himself.

Speaking to the media later, the student summed up that hug:

"It almost felt like acceptance," the student said, according to an article in UNM's student newspaper The Daily Lobo. "It's something a lot of LGBT kids don't get a lot of."

For his part, Sam took to Twitter to dispel any notion that he wishes he'd never lived his life authentically.

"I do not regret coming out," Sam tweeted on Feb. 18.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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