Yesterday University of Missouri’s defensive end Michael Sam was selected as the winner of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. The award, which is given to individuals who transcend sports, will be presented at The 2014 Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly (ESPYs) on July 16th. Other recipients of the award include Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela and Billie Jean King.
Michael Sam made history in February by becoming the first Division I college football player in history to come out as gay. Sam, who was named the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team all-SEC selection during his senior year at Missouri, is expected to be picked in the NFL Draft in the upcoming days.
Sam joined a growing list of notable athletes who have come out recently, including Jason Collins, Robbie Rogers, Brittney Griner, Orlando Cruz, Megan Rapinoe, Lori Lindsey, and Tom Daley.
The Brooklyn Nets signed center Jason Collins for the remainder of the season on Saturday, the team announced. Sources previously told ESPN.com that the Nets, who feel they’re getting everything they expected from Collins when they signed him for front court depth on Feb. 23, were already operating under the premise that the 34-year-old would finish the season with them even though his second 10-day deal didn’t expire until after Friday.
“It’s cool. Thank you to the Nets organization, coaches and players, the team is playing really well right now, and I’m glad to continue to be here,” Collins said.
Sources said that the internal expectation all along was that Collins would be a Net for the rest of the season, from the moment he signed his first 10-day deal, as long he proved that he could still be an effective defender, which he did immediately.
“We always focused on basketball,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. “We let you guys do all the other stuff. But having him on the team was always about basketball.”
Collins is averaging 9.8 minutes per game off the bench in eight appearances since his historic debut against the Los Angeles Lakers last month, which made him the first openly gay athlete in North America’s four recognized major team sports. He most recently provided the Nets with some meaningful minutes defending against DeMarcus Cousins, logging 20 minutes in a 104-89 win over Sacramento last Sunday.
Jason Collins made history Sunday when he became the NBA’s first openly gay player. On Tuesday, his jersey was the league’s top seller online. Collins’ No. 98 jersey for the Brooklyn Nets outsold NBA powerhouses like LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Monday, a league official told the New York Times the demand for merchandise that bore Collins’ name was “unprecedented.” Tuesday’s sales proved it.
Collins plays in his second game Wednesday night after signing a 10-day contract with the Nets. The team beat the Lakers 108-102 in his debut. Collins tallied 10 minutes and, more importantly, 5 personal fouls in the victory. In addition to solid interior defense, giving “hard fouls” has become Collins trademark since entering the league in 2001. He’s not an All-Star and the Nets don’t need him to be. Ten minutes and five fouls could come again Wednesday night against the Blazers.
LOS ANGELES — Jason Collins, a 35-year-old center, signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday afternoon and played against the Lakers hours later, appearing in an NBA uniform for the first time since last spring, when he announced that he was gay. The signing represents a significant step toward transforming North American professional sports into a more welcoming environment for gay athletes. Until Sunday night, no NBA game had taken place with an openly gay player on the floor. The NFL, Major League Baseball and the NHL — the continent’s other three traditional major sports leagues — have never had a publicly gay participant.
The very act of Collins’s suiting up and stepping onto the court — he entered the game to warm applause in the second quarter — represented a milestone in the effort to change a sports culture that some feel has lagged far behind society at large in acceptance of gay people. Collins played 11 minutes in the Nets’ 108-102 victory, finishing with no points, two rebounds, a steal and five fouls.
Collins said he had little time to process it all. He awoke Sunday morning to text messages from his agent and Nets Coach Jason Kidd alerting him to the move, and hours later he was signing his contract. A few hours after that, he was taking his physical and preparing to play his first game since April 17. “Right now, I’m focused on trying to learn the plays, the game plan assignment,” Collins, sitting at a lectern, said less than an hour before the game Sunday night. “I don’t have time to really think about history right now.”
Michael Sam, who aims to become the NFL’s first openly gay player, has won praise from First Lady Michelle Obama. The 24-year-old former University of Missouri athlete revealed his sexuality on Sunday. Mrs. Obama took to Twitter to call Sam “an inspiration to all of us”.
The National Football League has also welcomed the defensive lineman’s announcement, saying Sam has “honesty and courage.” Mrs. Obama said of Sam: “We couldn’t be prouder of your courage both on and off the field.”
In the interview that aired on ESPN on Sunday, Sam said: “I came to tell the world I’m an openly gay man. If I work hard, if I make plays – that’s all that should matter.”
The athlete completed his college football career in December and is expected to be drafted by an NFL franchise in May. He is said to have revealed his sexuality to his former college teammates at the University of Missouri’s Mizzou Tigers, but admitted doing so publicly was “a weight off his chest.” “I probably may be the first but I won’t be the last,” he added. “And I think only good things will come from this.”
On Sunday night, Michael Sam made history. The college football standout and likely top NFL draft pick publicly acknowledged that he is gay, which would make him the first athlete in a major American professional team sport to announce he is gay at the very beginning of his career. Sam’s announcement is already one of the biggest sports stories ever, but the timing of his announcement could make it one of the biggest cultural stories ever as well.
Some of you may be scratching your heads right now trying to figure out why this story matters in an age in which the president of the United States is on the record supporting same-sex marriage, and NBA player Jason Collins came out as gay last year. But Sam’s story will likely have a far more significant impact than either of these milestones. Here’s why:
President Obama certainly has a measure of influence, particularly among black audiences. When he first ran for president, data showed an “Obama effect” among black test-takers whose scores markedly improved when he won. But influencing test scores in a condensed time frame is very different from having a long-term impact on community behavior. For instance, so far there is no data to suggest that the image of the president’s nuclear family, comprised of two married parents raising their children and two dogs together, has significantly altered the landscape within the black community, in which single parenthood has become the norm. That is simply to say that altering social behavior in a meaningful way is a tall order for any one man, but it may be particularly tough for a president.
Pro wrestler Darren Young is also known as “Mr. No Days Off” to his fans. Young announced he was gay to a TMZ photographer Thursday morning in Los Angeles and he was in New York Friday morning to joinTODAY’s Matt Lauer for an exclusive interview — living up to his nickname. Young, whose real name is Fred Rosser, told Lauer it just felt like the “right place and right time,” to comment on his sexuality.
“I’ve been suppressed in these feelings for so long in my life,” said Young, 29. “I just need to be happy. To the day I’m six feet under, I will always say ‘I want to be happy.’ And I’m happy now.” Young wrestles for World Wrestling Entertainment and has received support and praise from his colleagues and company. The WWE released a statement midday Thursday congratulating Young on his announcement:
“WWE is proud of Darren Young for being open about his sexuality, and we will continue to support him as a WWE Superstar.”
As comfortable as Young appeared in the candid interview, he told Lauer Friday he had been living in fear he would be “outed” by someone in the wrestling world before he was ready. “I was terrified,” Young admitted. “And I think anybody in my shoes would feel the same way. But, you know it took some guts.” Young revealed to Lauer he spoke with NBA veteran and current free agent Jason Collins Thursday night. Collins, who announced he was gay earlier this year in an article for Sports Illustrated, served as an inspiration to Young and even gave him advice on how to handle increased public attention.
Young said he expects a mixed reaction from the crowd the next time he steps in the ring but is more concerned with his role moving forward. “At the end of the day, I want to be able to be a role model,” Young said. “I want to be a role model to people that are afraid to come out. I want to be there. I want to be able to speak at different functions and educate and tell my story.” One of WWE’s premiere pay-per-events, SummerSlam, is Sunday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
NBA center Jason Collins has become the first athlete in a major American team sport to come out as gay during his playing career. In a personal essay set to publish in Sports Illustrated, Collins begins, “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.
“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport,” he continues. “But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different.’ If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”
Previously, Collins wore No. 98 in honor of Matthew Shepard, a student at Wyoming who was tortured and murdered just outside of Laramie, Wyo., in October of 1998. During the trial, reports indicated that Sheppard was targeted because he was a gay man.