Is It Too Late? The NFL’s Attempt at Pride

The NFL has taken a stance on supporting the LGBTQ+ community since 2021 and again they have posted that they are in support of the community, partnering with The Trevor Project which is an organization dedicated to helping prevent suicide in LGBTQ+ youth. While I am glad that the league is finally voicing their support alongside the cause, I struggle to believe that they are genuine about the change they are putting their name behind. 

The NFL had its first chance to be inclusive back in 2014 when the first openly gay player, Michael Sam, was drafted by the St. Louis Rams. Sam was drafted in the 7th round with the 249th overall pick. Sam was not the best player in the draft, but by no stretch should he have been a 7th round pick as all estimates placed him around the 3rd or 4th round. Sam was the Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC and lead the conference in both sacks and tackles for loss in his senior year of 2013. Sam played for the Rams in the 2014 preseason, ending with 11 tackles and 3 sacks in four games. Then he was cut from the team. 

I would like to put that into perspective better for those who may not know: Aaron Donald, the multi-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Pro Bowler that we now know him to be, put up 3 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 forced fumble that same preseason, also as a rookie. Even if Sam was not good enough to make a final spot on the roster with the Rams, that should have at least caught someone else’s attention in the league.

Of course, since then, the narrative has changed, as it always does in these situations. Now the narrative is how Michael Sam was “too small to succeed in the league” and how the Rams “were too deep at the position already.” Yet, I still remember being a kid at that time and hearing all of the negative press surrounding Sam. It was common knowledge back then that he dropped at least three to four rounds in the draft because he had come out as gay. Even after he was drafted all the media wanted to talk about was how him being gay could cause locker room issues and how it was negative PR. Once he was temporarily picked up by the Cowboys, it all started again. While Sam exhibited nothing but class through these disappointments and never once blamed teams for being biased in their judgements against him, I am not so forgiving. The NFL as an organization and its teams failed Michael Sam and the LGBTQ+ community in 2014. 

Since then we have had Carl Nassib come out as gay in 2021 while playing for the Raiders. He was released from the team this year due to a lack of cap space and has yet to be picked up by another team. Nassib is different from Sam in that he has already played for six seasons in the league and proven himself as a player before coming out. He has already shown that he is capable of performing at the rigorous standard of the NFL so there is no excuse for another team to not pick him up.

So with the countdown to kickoff looming ever closer, the question arises: “Will the NFL practice what they post or will they fall back into old habits?” 


  • Luke Nelson

    Luke Nelson (he/him) is an article writer for Mental Dimes, specializing in NFL related news and analysis. He currently is going through college to obtain his bachelors in Creative Writing.

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