Sam's story may pave way for cultural change

ST. LOUIS - If former Mizzou football star Michael Sam becomes the first openly gay player in the NFL, it will have major social and cultural ramifications.

A gay rights activist who's organized hundreds of same sex marriages, and the executive director of a diversity non-profit agree that Michael Sam is a trailblazer.

Sam moved front and center in the national conversation on what it means to be gay in America.

"I think it's breaking down stereotypes," said Ed Reggi.

For St. Louisan and gay activist Reggi, the fact that Sam's Mizzou teammates and fellow students supported him isn't surprising.

Reggi believes opinions about sexual orientation are generational, and many young people don't care.

"It is a nonissue, to many of the students around campus that knew that didn't even blink an eyelash. People are saying today why did this not break sooner? And I think it's because it's a nonissue. No one even cared to break it. It was like, so he's gay," he said.

"We started a partnership with the St. Louis Rams, the Cardinals and the Blues to promote sports diversity through sports posters," said Reena Hajat Carroll.

Carroll is the executive director of the Diversity Awareness Partnership in downtown St. Louis. Her dream project: to work with Michael Sam to spread the message of diversity and tolerance.

"If he's a good player on the field that's really all that matters, so I think what it does for organizations like us it gives us this great opportunity to engage in dialogue about what are our fears, the unknowns about sexual orientation," said Carroll.

When the president and the first lady tweeted praise and support for Michael Sam, it demonstrated why Sam will be one of the biggest stories in football between now and the NFL draft.


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