Sports with Art Thiel
5:00 am
Fri February 14, 2014

Could Seahawks Draft First Openly Gay NFL Player?

Could the National Football League soon have its first openly gay player? And could the Seahawks draft him? Those are questions some people in Seattle are asking after college standout Michael Sam revealed that he’s gay just months before he enters the NFL draft.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says the Seahawks culture might be a good fit for Sam. Then there are those challenges that lie ahead for Sam, no matter where he lands in the NFL.

Rough Start

"If we didn't know he was gay, his story is still absolutely remarkable from so many perspectives," Art said.

Michael Sam was born in Hitchcock, Texas, as the seventh of eight children. Three of his siblings have died and two brothers are in jail, as detailed in a story in The New York Times. The article states that Sam had a tumultuous childhood that included spending some time living in a car with his mother.

Role Model To Ridicule?

Sam came out to the entire country Sunday, Feb. 9, and could become the first openly gay player in the NFL.

"For him to rise from this beginning to be an All-American defensive player for the University of Missouri and held in great acclaim for a football player, and now this, he is uniquely qualified to handle the dismay and disturbance that this will cause some people," Art said.

"His decision has been hailed by everyone from his teammates to President Obama," Art said. "It speaks to a public awareness and an embrace, but it doesn't address what's going to happen in an NFL locker room."

'I Don't Do The Gay Guys'

A hint of what some NFL players might think came last year, ahead of Super Bowl XLVII, when San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver made homophobic remarks to a radio station. He said "I don't do the gay guys. I don't do that. We ain't got gay people on the team." He later apologized.

Art says what Culliver said is representative of some of players. "There is a resentment, there is an apprehension, there is a resistance to this that still is part of the culture."

Could Sam Be A Seahawk?

Pre-draft information provided by NFL scouts suggests that Sam will be picked in the third or fourth round of this year's draft. One question is whether he will still be around by the time the Super Bowl champion Seahawks get to make their selection in each round. The other question: would the Seahawks want him?

Art says Pete Carroll is notorious for keeping politics out of his locker room.

"It [the question] would be: 'Is he the best man that we have available for this position?'" Art said. "I personally think that Carroll's enlightened view of how to handle personnel, how to treat people would be a very welcoming environment for Sam. But I also think that with any NFL team, there will be people who will be apprehensive about that."

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, the city's first openly gay mayor, has praised Sam's decision to come out. In a statement issued this week and posted on the mayor's blog, he suggests that the Seahawks would be a good fit. There has been no official comment from the team about Sam's announcement.

Related Stories On The Web:

Chris Kluwe blasts former Vikings bosses Frazier, Spielman, Priefer

Brendon Ayanbadejo Says His Gay Rights Activism Was Factor in Ravens’ Decision to Release Him

---

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.