Kevin O’Keefe sympathizes with Sam and his fans:
Sam has been the victim of several close calls all season long. He was a seventh-round draft pick for the Rams, and as a defensive end, he had to fight for a permanent spot on the team against several others in that same position. He eventually lost out, didn’t get picked up on waivers, and was picked up for the Cowboys’ practice squad shortly after.
Now, Sam has been cut to make way for linebacker Troy Davis on the practice squad. That may make perfect sense for the team. That doesn’t mean that people who had emotionally invested in Sam because of what he stood for aren’t entitled to disappointment—no matter what people who understand the decision logically might say. In other words: Calling the Cowboys’ or the Rams’ decision to cut Sam homophobic might be an overreach. But it’s an understandable overreach.
Jim Buzinski suspects that other gay athletes will now be even more reluctant to come out:
Any gay player contemplating coming out will need to answer this theoretical — if Michael Sam had not publicly come out as gay, would he be in the NFL? We’ll never know for sure, though there is enough evidence to suggest that would be the case. An established player with no fear of getting cut would be in the best position to come out, but this is the kind of player who will think long and hard about how this benefits him. Does he want what will be intense media attention, at least for a short while? Does he want “gay” pinned to descriptions of him in the media? Is he out to family and close friends and maybe some trusted teammates, so he has no need to take the next step and tell the world? This latter example was the case with Sam at the University of Missouri and he thrived. He was out to those who mattered and was in a comfort zone.
Scott Shackford, on the other hand, bets we’ll have a gay NFL player in the near future:
Sam hasn’t really ruined any sort of narrative, except for the perhaps some sort of fairy tale that the first openly gay football player was bound to be some sort of overachieving, record-shattering superstar, and that’s a fantasy we can do without. It’s not a “moment” of acceptance gay Americans are experiencing right now. It’s the slow culmination of a very long battle across decades that has consumed some people’s whole lives (on both sides). This gay marriage advance isn’t something that just happened, though it is certainly changing extremely quickly from a historical perspective. A gay NFL player coming out next year or the year after is probably still “now” in the terms of the current movement.
Sam’s experience did actually illustrate that the NFL and NFL fans are ready for the guy, and they’re ready for whoever the first openly gay NFL player ends up being.