Michael Sam Comes With Message of Hope
LGBT football player, Michael Sam, addressed the University at Albany community on Tuesday night with a message of perseverance.
Over 400 students attended Sam’s keynote speech during the 34th annual UAlbany Sexuality Month. By the end of Sam’s presentation students had various opinions on his short-lived NFL career, his status as an icon in the LGBT community, and his positive outlook on life.
Prior to the start of Sam’s speech, he allowed members of UAlbany’s student media to interview him.
Troy Farkas, a junior history major at the university and the current Albany Student Press sports editor, had the chance to interview Sam prior to the presentation. Farkas thinks that the attention the media gave Sam on his decision to publicly come out as gay in college altered his career in the NFL.
“The media ruined his NFL career by talking about him all the time and making his sexuality a bigger deal than it actually was,” said Farkas.
Sam was drafted in the 7th round of the 2014 NFL draft. During his speech Sam revealed that he thought he would be picked earlier in the draft instead of being the 249th pick.
“I was the sack leader that year and SEC Defensive Player of the year. So I thought with my stats alone I would get late 2nd or early 3rd,” said Sam during his presentation.
Sam was cut from two NFL teams, the St. Louis Rams and the Dallas Cowboys during 2014.
Despite Sam’s dream of playing in the NFL coming to an end, the positivity that Sam regards his future with resonated among UAlbany students.
Student Association President Felix Abreu, who introduced Michael Sam prior to the start of the presentation, found Sam’s life story extremely motivational.
“You can see that despite having to overcome obstacles, Sam continued to pursue his dream and not only that, he continued believing in himself, something I hope everyone that attended the event was able to takeaway. It’s all about personal perception and Sam exemplified what it means to be true to yourself,” said Abreu.
When Sam was speaking of his difficult childhood he became emotional when he revealed the abuse he suffered from the hands of his older brothers, the impact that his father abandoning his family had, and how he became the second child out of his eight siblings to graduate from high school.
“The proudest moment in my life was when I was walking across that stage and I looked in the stands and I saw my mom in my tears,” said Sam about receiving his high school diploma.
Also in the audience that night was Anthony Castro, a junior computer engineering major. Castro was surprised that Sam was able to work past his childhood struggles.
“Dealing with the kinds of tragedy he dealt with at home is alone a difficult task, and it is impressive that he was able to rise out of hardship and become the first of his family to attend college,” said Castro.
As far as his status as an LGBT icon, students who attended the presentation admired his courage for being an openly gay athlete.
Claire McCulley, a sophomore majoring in Public Policy and Management and minoring in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, feels that it is crucial for queer athletes to be open about their sexual orientation.
“I’m gay but I’m also white, so the privileges I have are very different from the privileges given to queer people of color. At least I can see people like me represented in media in a somewhat positive light, but LGBT people of color are constantly erased and eclipsed from mainstream media in favor of white people. For Michael Sam to be black, gay, an athlete, and out, is remarkable and moving. These are identities that don’t typically mesh well in our society, so I love him for embracing his intersectionality and encouraging others to do the same,” said McCulley.
Robert Lepelstat, a sophomore journalism major, is looking forward to the impact that Sam will have on the sports world. Sam was already awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2014 ESPY awards.
“Michael has singlehandedly opened the door for so many other professional athletes to follow in his footsteps and I think when we ultimately look back at Michael Sam and this decision in the future, hopefully we’ll be confused as to why his coming out was such a big deal,” said Lepelstat.
Michael Sam’s honesty to share his identity with the world makes him a trailblazer in both the sports world and the LGBT community. Sam’s confidence in who he is and his positivity towards life despite all of the suffering he has faced makes him a valuable icon. It is exciting to speculate on Sam’s future career, whether it be in sports, motivational speaking, or something entirely new.