For most of the 2013 football season, Michael Sam made headlines with his play on the field. Sunday evening, Sam became the central figure in one of the biggest sports stories of the year.
In an article in the New York Times, and also an interview with ESPN, the former Missouri Tiger announced that he was gay. Two months short of the NFL Draft, Sam is set to become the first active openly gay athlete in major American professional sports.
"I'm not naïve," Sam said. "I know this is a huge deal and I know how important this is." (Read the entire story right here)
Sam, who had never previously had a Twitter account, posted two messages shortly after the stories were released:
The University of Missouri released statements from Athletic Director Mike Alden and football coach Gary Pinkel in the wake of Sam's coming out. Here are those statements in their entirety:
Pinkel: "We're really happy for Michael that he's made the decision to announce this, and we're proud of him and how he represents Mizzou. Michael is a great example of just how important it is to be respectful of others, he's taught a lot of people here first-hand that it doesn't matter what your background is, or your personal orientation, we're all on the same team and we all support each other. If Michael doesn't have the support of his teammates like he did this past year, I don't think there's any way he has the type of season he put together.
We talk all the time here in our program about how one of our core values is to respect the cultural differences of others, and this certainly applies. We view ourselves as one big family that has a very diverse collection of people from all walks of life, and if you're part of our family, we support you.
Looking back, I take great pride in how Michael and everyone in our program handled his situation. This past August, Michael was very direct with the team when he decided to let everyone know that he is gay. We discussed how to deal with that from a public standpoint, and ultimately Michael decided that he didn't want that to be the focal point of the season. He wanted to focus on football and not do anything to add pressure for him or for his teammates, and I think that's a great example of the kind of person he is. We left it that whenever he felt the time was right, however he wanted to make the announcement, that we had his back and we'd be right there with him.
We're very proud of Michael and the courage he has displayed for coming out. We look forward to following his career, and the success he's going to have."
Alden: "We are so proud of Michael for what he has accomplished at Mizzou academically, socially and competitively. This is a young man who earned his degree from MU, was a unanimous All-American on the football field and now he's being a leader in his personal life. He continues to display great character, courage and compassion. We are proud of him on every level.
We work very hard at the University of Missouri to provide an environment that is respectful and inclusive of all people. We're pleased with the strides we've made over the years with our student-athletes, coaches and staff about respecting and celebrating our differences. We continue to grow every day. We talk all the time about our core value of respect, and we emphasize that in a number of ways, whether it's through individual actions, team settings, public efforts such as our 'If You Can Play, You Can Play' video, and even our Men-for-Men and Women-for-Women programs.
The University's theme is called 'One Mizzou.' What that theme represents is that we are all family, we are all Tigers, and we should all respect and appreciate each other.
We wish Michael all the best in all that he does."
Teammates, media members and people across the country took to Twitter to share their thoughts. The following is just a sample of what we saw:
Dana O'Neil, ESPN, @ESPNDanaOneil: "Way to go Michael Sam"
Donovan Bonner, Former Mizzou LB, @ElTorroOcho: "Proud of my bro Mike for finally coming out man takes a tremendous amount of courage."
Bonner: "We knew of his status for five years and not one team member, coach or staff member said anything says a lot about our family atmosphere."
Lucas Vincent, Mizzou DT, @High_Chief_LV96: "Good for you Mike!"
Trey Hobson, former Mizzou CB, @TreyHob21: "Shoutout to my former Teammate Michael Sam. Though its old news to us its a Great move by a great guy. Wish you much success in the future!"
Jack Meiners, former Mizzou OL, @jackmeiners75: "I'm sure it took a lot of courage to make something so personal, public. Proud of my brother and 1 on 1 pass adversary Michael Sam."
ShayneSkov, Stanford LB, @ShayneSkov11: "Much respect to (Michael Sam) for having the confidence and courage to share who he is. Wishing him success on n off the field."
Henry Josey, former Mizzou RB, @I_AM_HJOSEY20: "Much Respect for Mike Sam #1Mizzou"
Kentrell Brothers, Mizzou LB, @Kentrell_Mizzou: "We are a FAMILY. And we support all of our players. Nothing changes. It takes a lot of courage to do what he did. And we are behind him all the way."
Chase Daniel, KC Chiefs QB, @ChaseDaniel: "Had multiple convos with @MikeSamFootball this year, amazed at his honesty & courage. Once a Tiger, ALWAYS a Tiger!"
This is a small sampling of reaction gathered from Twitter. Not all of it is positive, but we choose not to give an audience to those reacting negatively.