Publicly, the story of Michael Sam announcing to the world he is a proud gay man has met with standing ovations from all walks of life in and out of the sports world.  In some comments, the euphemisms that are often used to mask true feelings are out there for the world to see as well.  Sadly, for Michael Sam, Jr., there is one person who has feelings of reservations for his son’s lifestyle and he is not trying to hide those feelings in any euphemisms.  That person is his father.

Telling his Missouri Tiger teammates he was gay last August was easy for Michael Sam, most of them already knew.  Telling his father took until just last week, only days before he told the world his secret.  On Sunday, when the world did find out, Michael Sam, Sr. was still having a hard time with the news his son had told him days earlier.

Last Tuesday Michael Sam, Sr. was out at a Denny’s near Dallas, Texas celebrating his birthday.  A simple three word text came to his phone from his son reading, “Dad, I’m gay”.  The news stopped the birthday party cold, “I couldn’t eat no more, so I went to Applebee’s to have drinks”.

A week after being given the news from his son, an interview that Michael Sam, Sr. gave to the New York Times hit the newsstands and the internet.  The euphemisms were peppered thru his comments and his true feelings not hard to figure out.

I don’t want my grand kids raised in that kind of environment.  I’m old-school.  I’m a man and a woman type of guy,“ Sam, Sr. said.  Hehe remembers taking his son to Mexico so he could lose his virginity.  “As a black man, we have so many hurdles to cross.  This is just one he has to cross.”  While father expressed hope that his son would succeed in the NFL, he demonstrated uneasiness with a gay player in the NFL.  He talked about how Deacon Jones, a Pro Football Hall of Famer who was known as one of the meanest and toughest players in the game’s history, “is turning over in his grave”.

Michael Sam from NBC News 300x199 Michael Sams father has issues with his son being gay

Michael Sam. (Image from NBC News)

Michael Sam, Jr. conceded that, “I’m closer to my friends than I am to my family”.  He admitted to staying with friends when he travels back home rather than staying with family.  He told the stories of telling some of his teammates two years ago he was gay.  He also told stories of growing up in Hitchcock, Texas, 40 miles southeast of Houston near Galveston Bay.  “It was very hard growing up in that environment,” Sam said. “My family was very notorious in the town that we lived in.  Everyone would say, ‘There goes those damn Sams.’ I didn’t want to paint that ill picture of me.  I knew the good in my family.  They didn’t know our background and the adversity we had to endure. I wanted to succeed and be a beacon of hope in my family”.

Michael, Jr. had a sister who drowned when she was two, before he was born.  Another child had accidentally knocked her off a fishing pier. Another brother, Russell, was 15 when he was shot and killed trying to break into a home, something his father believed was part of a gang initiation. Another brother, Julian, has not been heard from since he left for work one day in 1998; his family believes he is dead. Two other brothers are in jail.

With everything else going on in the family, another subject of tension was religion.  JoAnn Sam, mother of Michael, Jr. was a Jehovah’s Witnesses.  A faith that, among other beliefs, feels that participation in organized sports distracted from the mission of service.  Michael, Sr. was a Baptist with a father who was a long serving deacon at his church.  Michael, Jr. wanted to play football, he needed to play football and he understood that.  “There were confrontations,” Michael, Jr. said. “I love my mother dearly. But I needed sports. I needed sports to make sure I can’t get in trouble, to make sure I didn’t do anything bad”.

Michae Sam on the field for the Missouri Tigers Image from NCAA Michael Sams father has issues with his son being gay

Michael Sam on the field for the Missouri Tigers. (Image from NCAA)

For Michael Sam, Jr., the next step of his life started on Sunday when he came out to the world, at least the world that did not already know, and told us he was gay.  Family members are not chosen, while friends, and even enemies, are.  Most people agree that Michael Sam, Jr. played his best season on the field this year, since he was  free to be himself more than he ever has been.  He has faced bigger obstacles than most people face in their entire lives and he is only 24 years old.

The NFL probably won’t be able to hurt Michael Sam, Jr., nor will it be able to scare him from being himself from the first day he enters the league until his last.  Hopefully, the league will be able to learn from Michael Sam, Jr.; hopefully they will take his story and embrace it, share it, and use it as a shining example of what hard work and good character can bring you.