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Michael Sam drafted by St. Louis
by Ross Forman

Michael Sam cleared a huge hurdle May 10 en route to playing football on Sundays.

With the 249th overall pick, the St. Louis Rams used a seventh-round slot in the 2014 NFL Draft to grab Michael Sam from the University of Missouri, the 2013 SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year and the first openly gay player ever drafted.

History was made on ESPN—and sealed with a kiss.

Sam broke down in tears upon receiving the phone call from St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher. Sam was consoled by his boyfriend Vito Cammisano, and the two kissed repeatedly, which was aired nationally. Sam's boyfriend swam competitively for the University of Missouri.

"I had no idea they were this interested in me," Sam told reporters local reporters after the selection. "I knew I was gonna get picked somewhere, and every team that passed me, I was thinking, 'I'm gonna sack their QB.'"

Fisher, who played for the Chicago Bears (1981-1985) and coached fellow gay player Wade Davis during preseason games with the Tennessee Titans, told the NFL Network, "We were very fortunate to have the supplemental choices. You use those for players you want to give an opportunity to, that you think that you want to draft. I haven't said a whole lot to anybody over the last week or so, but after doing the studies, this is a good football player."

Read more story below....

The Rams open the preseason schedule on Friday, August 8, against New Orleans, and kickoff the regular season on Sunday, Sept. 7, against the Minnesota Vikings.

The Rams do not play against Chicago in 2014.

"Let me tell you something. If we were playing the Vikings right now, I'd probably have three sacks," Sam told reporters. "The 2013 Co-Defensive Player of the Year is ready to (expletive) show the world that he is ready to work."

The responses to St. Louis' selection—and the nationally-televised kiss—included President Obama, and also some homophobic Tweets from within the NFL, which were immediately addressed.

"The President congratulates Michael Sam, the Rams and the NFL for taking an important step forward in our Nation's journey," Obama said in a White House statement. "From the playing field to the corporate boardroom, LGBT Americans prove everyday that you should be judged by what you do and not who you are."

Former Super Bowl champion Derrick Ward, who played in the NFL from 2004-2011, tweeted, "I'm sorry but that Michael Sam is no bueno for doing that [kiss] on national tv."

Ward added, "Man U got little kids lookin at the draft. I can't believe ESPN even allowed that to happen."

Ward later said he has received death threats against him and his children after the comments.

Meanwhile, Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones also expressed his disapproval with Sam's emotional moment, tweeting "horrible" and "OMG." He has since deleted those comments, and now faces the consequences from his team. The Dolphins ordered Jones to pay an undisclosed fine and barring him from team activities until he finishes "training for his recent comments made on social media."

"We met with Don today about respect, discrimination and judgment," the Dolphins said in a statement on May 11. "These comments are not consistent with the values and standards of our program."

Jones apologized. "I want to apologize to Michael Sam for the inappropriate comments that I made last night on social media," he said in a statement Sunday. "I take full responsibility for them and I regret that these tweets took away from his draft moment. I remember last year when I was drafted in the seventh round and all of the emotions and happiness I felt when I received the call that gave me an opportunity to play for an NFL team and I wish him all the best in his NFL career."

Sam's selection, and certainly the kiss too, sent joy throughout the LGBT community, naturally.

"Just a tremendous moment for all LGBT athletes. Young, gay, high school athletes in America can know that they can be who they are and still reach the pinnacle of their sport. I think it's awesome that ESPN showed Michael's raw emotion and the affection between he and his boyfriend. Really a historic moment in our movement," said Anthony Nicodemo, an openly gay basketball coach at Saunders High School in New York.

"Among my teammates in both softball, football and soccer over this weekend, the comment I kept hearing was how wonderful it is that ESPN chose to show two gay people kissing and embracing, just like they would with any other couple," said Shawn Albritton, of Chicago. "For me, it struck a chord that affection that I would share with my boyfriend was the very same as the one Michael Sam shared with his loved one on a very special moment in their lives. I also applaud ESPN for not censoring a kiss between two loved ones."

Tami Engelman of the Chicago Force women's football team said Sam's selection "hopefully speaks to the progress we are making as a community and a country." She added, "It shows the maturity of the views of people across the nation to accept the LGBTQ community as equals. As any athletic male he deserves the same chance to play and the pros as his heterosexual counter parts."

Michael R. Lunde of Chicago traveled to New York earlier this year to cheer on his beloved Seattle Seahawks to victory in the Super Bowl. He still is thrilled for Sam. "Even though he went to [an] NFC West rival [team], I will watch the production of Michael Sam, who showed great courage coming out of the closet before a team picked him up. I think [his sexual orientation] was still on the minds of a lot of teams since it's the latest in the history of the draft that an SEC Defensive Player of the Year has gone in the draft. Cheers to him and his family as well as his new family. It showed great balls by the organization [and] they got a heck of a football player."

Amini Fonua, an out former college swimmer who competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics, said he was "So happy we finally broke down this wall, and it is only the beginning of the future for GLBT role models in sports."

Andrew Goldstein, an out former college lacrosse player who has continued to play professionally, told the Windy City Times, "Congratulations to Michael Sam and the St. Louis Rams. It's an exciting day for everyone in the sports world and I'm sure very gratifying for so many athletes who came before him who weren't able to receive the same type of support for being themselves. More importantly, now he can just be one of the guys working hard for a spot on the field. Cheers!"

Christina Kahrl, a transgender sportswriter based in Chicago, said the Sam selection was "a great day in football history."

"The Rams seem delighted he was on the board, he should be a good fit for their aggressive pass rush, and I expect the Rams have a whole lot of brand-new fans, from Mizzou and across the country," Kahrl said.

Bernard Cherkasov, the CEO at Equality Illinois, said Sam's selection "demonstrates the natural evolution of our society towards acceptance and respect." He added that "sports are a great place to show that people should be judged on their merit on what they bring to the game, not on their identity."

Robin Lee, an out sports fan from San Francisco, said the Sam news is "huge" for the gay community. "This is the first time a gay man has been drafted to play in any of the major professional sports," she said. "The Rams chose him, knowing who they're getting. That is HUGE. In the past, a player may have come out after leaving the game, or in the case of Jason Collins between seasons and teams. Props to you Michael Sams, now go forth and conquer!"

Brian Walker, of Chicago, an out former college football player, said that "judging an athlete by his or her ability is now the law of the land." He added, "Michael Sam being openly and honestly accepted in the NFL has made this possible. Gay and lesbian athletes have been making great strides in the past few years, but now I believe this is the end of the beginning. Now all athletes, no matter what their background, have a playing field."

The Rams are scheduled to hold news conferences with all 11 draft picks on Tuesday, May 13 at Rams Park in St. Louis. Sam is scheduled to participate and even has additional time available due to the projected demand.

Brian Kupersmit, the president of the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association (CMSA), said Sam's draft "shows that no matter what your sexual orientation is, a good athlete is a good athlete."

Kupersmit added, "There will be a lot of pressure for Michael to be successful, but hopefully he will focus on football and fulfill his potential."

David Munar, the president of Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago, added, "So happy for Michael who is breaking new ground as [an] athlete who embraces and celebrates who he is."

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