Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL, addressed the homophobic emails that Jon Gruden wrote and surfaced publicly before Gruden resigned as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday.
In one of Gruden’s emails – which also included misogynistic and racist language – he used a homophobic term while referring to Sam being drafted in 2014 by the then-St. Louis Rams.
“It’s unfortunate,’’ Sam said Wednesday during a webinar hosted by Augusta (Ga.) University, “especially that the first active gay player who’s playing is on the same team.’’
Sam was referring to Carl Nassib, a defensive end for the Raiders who is the first openly gay active NFL player. Sam did not make an active NFL roster.
After Nassib publicly disclosed in June that he is gay, Gruden told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “I learned a long time ago what makes a man different is what makes him great.’’
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But Sam, speaking at an event billed as "Courageous Conversation with Michael Sam" and offering his first public remarks about Gruden’s emails, said, “So it almost seems like you know how the whole team would rally around (Nassib), but again, it almost seems like it was just for show. So are you really a part of it, or are you not?
“It’s moving in that direction (of acceptance), so if you’re not a part of it, you need to find another profession.’’
Nassib was excused from team activities by the Raiders on Wednesday after he requested a personal day, Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said.
Sam, who played at Missouri and was the named the SEC co-defensive player of the year in 2013, said there are closeted gay players in the NFL.
“I know guys who are struggling in the NFL and not able to come (out),’’ he said.
Asked how he hoped the NFL would respond to Gruden’s emails, Sam replied, “They will definitely crack down on bigotry like that.’’
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Michael Sam responds to Jon Gruden's homophobic emails