Former Missouri linebacker Michael Sam announced earlier this month that he is gay. Other than a few anonymous comments from NFL types that Sam's sexuality will affect his draft stock, the response has been overwhelmingly positive both within the league and beyond.
In a recent anonymous survey of 51 NFL players, ESPN found that 86 percent don't care about another player's sexual orientation. Other findings:
• 62 percent said they had teammates or coaches who used homophobic slurs this past season.
• 76 percent said they would shower around a gay teammate.
• 54 percent said an openly gay player would be comfortable in an NFL locker room.
Steelers safety Ryan Clark spoke to that last point a day after Sam's announcement. He wondered how Sam's future teammates should behave around him. And while it may sound like a naive question, Clark explained that this isn't just about Sam being gay but about the culture of NFL locker rooms for everybody -- straight, gay, skinny, fat, handsome, ugly.
"You want to know how you can behave around this person," Clark said. "Anyone who has been in a football locker room knows that there's a lot of jokes, a lot of ribbing. We'll talk about anything. If a guy is fat. If a guy is ugly. If a guy's significant other is not attractive. These are things you josh each other about and you talk with each other about. In what ways can you talk to him? In what ways can you involve him in your conversations? What are the things you can do and say around him that won't make him uncomfortable? That won't make him feel that he's being ostracized? Or that won't make him feel like he's being harassed or quote, unquote bullied?"
One NFL starting receiver offered this advice to ESPN: "Whoever takes [Sam in the draft] should have an open talk at the beginning of camp, where everybody can ask what he's comfortable with, what offends him, what boundaries there should be. When it comes to race, people already know the boundaries, to a certain extent. But I don't think football players are overly familiar with what can and can't be said around a gay person."