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Hall of Famer
Bettis, Clark support Michael Sam
PITTSBURGH -- Former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis and free safety Ryan Clark each said the time is right for an openly gay player in the NFL after Missouri defensive end Michael Sams' announcement Sunday that he is gay.
"For him to make it public that he is gay, the key word is he knows who he is and he's comfortable with who he is," Bettis said on ESPN's "SportsCenter" on Sunday night. "I think that sends the message that it is OK and I think that's what everyone needs to take from that. It is OK that he is gay and wants to play football in the NFL."
Bettis estimated that 90 to 95 percent of NFL players will welcome Sam.
"I think this is the perfect opportunity for the NFL to now make this a point to communicate to every NFL team now you have to understand, now you have to bring these players to this moment," Bettis said.
Sam told ESPN and the New York Times on Sunday that he will attempt to become the first openly gay player to play in the NFL after a decorated career in which he earned All-American honors as a senior and was the SEC's co-Defensive Player of the Year.
"If he's willing to put his hand in the pile and be a part of the solution to winning a championship and winning football games, then guys will accept him," Clark said on "SportsCenter" in a phone in interview.
Sam's acknowledgement comes less than two weeks before the start of the NFL scouting combine where he will easily be the biggest story.
Clark said one thing teams will have to gauge while evaluating Sam is how he will be received in the locker room.
"The one thing we know about NFL locker room and NFL teams is it's the ultimate team sport and you want that camaraderie, you want that chemistry," said Clark, a two-time Steelers captain. "I think before he steps into a locker room people will talk to leaders in the locker room, leaders on their team to see how do they plan to accept him as a teammate."
Rookies are not always well received by veteran players. In the case of Sam, that could lead to questions of whether some players are aloof toward him because he is a rookie or because he is gay.
"This is the thing people have to understand about NFL locker rooms: It's a lot of ornery veterans," Clark said. "There's a lot of veterans that don't like talking to rookies. There's a lot of veterans that don't really mingle with guys coming in playing their positions or guys they feel like haven't earned their spots. So we've had situations where there are veterans that don't talk to the young guys or that don't necessarily accept them until they've proven themselves in certain ways.
"I think what we have to be very careful about is making sure that if a guy doesn't come out and say he's in full support just knowing he's not in opposition. Just understanding that for a lot of guys it's going to take some time to get used to that has never been through this situation. For us, it's about being patient with the whole process and allowing the guy to play football."
Bettis said he expects that to happen no matter which team Sam makes history with as the first openly gay player in the NFL.
"You're always going to have one or two guys that feel strongly in a different capacity but that's going to be in any situation you deal with," Bettis said. "You understand that and hope those players allow him to be in that locker room and give him the respect he deserves being in the locker room."
We should take a poll of Steelers fans to see what % of us would like to see the Steelers draft this kid.
where is queer bait?
Originally Posted by The Man of Steel
If he's a good football player who can help the team, then, by all means, draft him...
He looks the right size for a DE to OLB convert...11.5 sacks last season...
It would be in the NFL's best interest if he ends up on the same team as Ritchie Incognito.
I'm sick of this to be honest...
this is going to cloud the judgement of teams and sway his draft position. This will put a team in a tough spot if he doesn't get playing time because people will blame it on homophobia when it could be a case of him not being good enough.
It's similar to the Tebow mess... teams will get the "anti" label if they don't draft or play him on day 1.
Read an SI column where they talked to 8 GM's off record whose general consensus was "the league's not ready... the locker rooms aren't evolved enough." Said only a strong owner/veteran coach/ tight locker room would work. Kind of similar to the Mike Vick return situation. With so few teams able to take the guy, somebody could get a 2nd round talent on a 6th or 7th round price tag.
I'm not sure where he is a second round talent. From what I've read, many didn't have him in their top 100 prospects. Seems like a tweener who is limited in coverage. I've seen guys like this go in the third, or fall as UDFA.
Originally Posted by B&GinNC
For a player with seemingly a lot of limitations, it would be tough to invite the distraction and media attention.
SEC defensive player of the year? Yeah, clearly he can't play...
What do you expect Clark and Bettis to say? That he shouldn't have come out and admit he is gay? They would get destroyed for saying that. But, no, I wouldn't want to draft Sam, but not because I am anti-gay; I really don't care what people do in their private lives as long as they are not hurting others. The reason I wouldn't want to draft him is he isn't a fit on this D and he would be a distraction. To reach for a guy because you want to make good PR to the gay community is just stupid.
Originally Posted by The Man of Steel