Media outlets and people all across America were abuzz with excitement back in February when University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam came out before he was to be considered for the NFL Draft. Should he be selected when the Draft starts on May 8, he will break down one of the last barriers in professional sports; he will be the first openly gay NFL player. Sam’s coming out has been the most high-profile in a promising year for gay athletes. Here’s a profile of Sam and five other athletes who came out as gay in the media in 2014.
When all is said and done at the end of the year, Michael Sam may very well be considered one of the biggest coming out stories of 2014. The 24-year-old from Texas, who played defensive end at the University of Missouri, came out in early February to much fanfare. At Mizzou, Sam earned All-American honors and helped his football team notch an 11-1 regular season last year. He was also given the honor of SEC Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press. A solid draft pick even before his announcement, the added buzz could benefit any team that wants him, especially since Sam has started his own online store to prove his ability to push merchandising with his name on it. Sam is expected to be picked either in the second half of the first round or the early part of the second round of the NFL Draft.
Nineteen-year-old British diver Tom Daley revealed that he was in a relationship with another man (filmmaker Dustin Lance Black) at the end of last year, but in his maybe-possibly-coming-out speech posted to YouTube, he let people know that he still “fancied” women. Not the case anymore! In April, during an appearance on the British television show Celebrity Juice, he said, “I am a gay man now.” The always photogenic and very handsome Daley won the bronze medal in the 10-meter platform at the 2012 London Olympics and took home the gold at the 2009 World Championships in Rome. When he isn’t practicing his diving or teaching children how to dive, he is a fixture on the UK reality show and talk show circuit.
Parker Camp is from Nashville, Tennessee and is in his fourth year at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Coming out to his teammates wasn’t necessarily the difficult part of his journey; it was dealing with his mother, who is a devout Christian. Too afraid to address her via telephone or in person, he came out to her in an e-mail. After some tense days filled with silence, his mother let him know that she loves him no matter what. Happily, his other family members have accepted him too. This past month, Camp participated in a pro-gay Internet meme with four other members of his swim team, holding a sign that says “Two of us are gay, and the other three don’t care.” Camp insists his teammates have been respectful and understanding throughout his coming out process.
Marcus Juhlin picked an unusual sport to follow in a country like Sweden. Like the rest of Europe, soccer is king; instead Juhlin pursued American-style football. The 22-year-old is from Karlstad, about two hours northeast of Gothenburg. He was interviewed by the Swedish gay magazine QX, and it’s no surprise that the brawny wide receiver made their front cover. Juhlin says he was inspired by Michael Sam’s story in the United States and that was why he decided to tell his story to QX. Juhlin said to the magazine, “I am a man. A gay man who no longer cares about what he previously thought about being gay, and now I want to step forward proudly even though I train in one of the more manly sports in Sweden. I’m already who I want to be. I’m the person I always have been.”
Mitch Eby, the defensive end on the football team at Chapman University in California, is considered a hero by at least one teammate. Why is that? Because he decided to be honest with himself and others, and he came out as gay. Eby told Outsports that he learned through his years of playing sports that being gay was viewed as weak and was not approved of, so he hid his identity for many years. He was inspired by a college football kicker in Oregon who came out as bisexual, and that the advice and encouragement he gave him led Eby to come out publicly. He was most surprised to learn that his team not only didn’t care, but actually admired the fact that he was courageous enough to speak his truth.
Matt Kaplon, who is in his final year playing the position of catcher at Drew University in New Jersey, came out to his team in an emotional meeting in February. Kaplon started at catcher 97 different times over the past three baseball seasons and batted a .327 average, throwing out 13 runners in 29 starts. In all his years playing sports, he continuously received the message that being gay was not accepted, so he hid his orientation from everyone starting in high school and continuing on through college. That is, until this year. After he came out to his teammates, he was greeted with applause as every single person on his team approved of his news.
These are just a few of the dozens of athletes who have come out this year. To read more inspirational coming out stories featuring athletes, visit outsports.com.