With the announcement on Sunday by former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam that he is gay, many NFL players, coaches and general managers are being asked their opinion. Most of the reactions have been positive from the NFL world, including from 49ers GM Trent Baalke. On Monday night, Baalke applauded the former SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year:
The 49ers commend Michael for the courage he has displayed, as he continues to pursue his NFL career. We have and will continue to evaluate him as we do every draft eligible player, which is always based on their projected contributions to our team on and off the field.
Sam played great last season finishing with 11.5 sacks as he helped lead Missouri to a 12-2 season. Before the season started, he came out to his teammates and coaches. Not surprisingly, his sexual orientation was not an issue or a distraction for the football team this past season. So there’s no reason to think it would all of a sudden become an issue or a distraction for whichever team that decides to draft the defensive end. Sure, Sam’s fellow teammates, coaches and executives will be asked to comment on whether or not he will be accepted. But the only way this becomes a distraction is if they let it fester into one by saying something stupid, like, ‘Sam does not belong on the team because he is gay.’ I don’t doubt that there will be teammates who won’t accept Sam. But anything negative that comes from this will be overshadowed by Sam’s play on the field.
San Francisco is known as a city of many things, one of which includes celebrating diversity. It also has one of the largest LGBT communities in the United States. So, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say the 49ers would be a good fit for Sam. That is not to say the 49ers will draft him just because of his sexual orientation. But the front office knows the 49ers Faithful would not have any problem drafting the first openly gay football player out of college.
The so-called experts are projecting Sam to be drafted between the third and fifth rounds in May. With the 49ers having five draft picks in the first three rounds, 11 overall, there is the possibility of him being selected by San Francisco. Because of his size and the Niners’ 3-4 defensive formation, he would likely be converted to an outside linebacker. However, the 49ers have a lot of depth at the position with Aldon Smith (a fellow Mizzou alum), Ahmad Brooks, Corey Lemonier and Dan Skuta.