Colin Kapaernick isn’t the only player that the NFL did dirty. Remember Michael Sam? The football player from the University of Missouri who had won Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, won the ESPY’s Arthur Ashe award for courage and was one of GQ’s Men of the Year. Sam had a promising NFL career ahead of him, until he came out as gay. In 2014, he became the first openly gay football player to be drafted into the NFL. Though his courage was commended and celebrated, he was never able to live his dream fully. After being the 249th pick of the St. Louis Rams in the 2014 draft, he made his preseason debut but was later cut. He was later picked up by the Dallas Cowboys but that didn’t last long, as he was later waived for another player. He played for the Canadian Football League but left the league after one game.
“I didn’t want to be in Montreal,” Sam told Yahoo Sports. “I felt like I had to do it for the community.”
In 2016 he tried to revive his career and become a TV personality. He moved to Los Angeles and went to meetings with a few media companies but his phone never rang. Sam, 29, then reached out to the NFL’s player engagement department but after giving him a tour of their New York City office, he “was sent on his way.” Sam remained encouraged and reached out LGBTQ community organizations and other sports companies but “no one would give me a job.” He then fell deep into despair and developed a drug addiction to MDMA and cocaine. Football, the sport that had saved him from abusive household growing up, had led to his demise.
“Where was the support that I got for coming out?,” he said. “I felt like I was used by everyone. I felt lost and worthless.”
After becoming sober last year, he now does speaking engagements on college campuses, his only source of income. Going to an ayahuasca retreat to the Peruvian Amazon helped him gain a peace of mind and he was not only able to stop doing drugs but also rekindle relationships with his family and forgive them.
“I wish I was still playing football but I know if I was in the NFL I wouldn’t have a relationship with my family,” he said.