A day will come when a professional athlete coming out won't be news. But right now, it is. And Michael Sam knew that when he decided to make his sexual orientation public two weeks before the NFL Scouting Combine and three months before the draft.
The development has rightly been applauded and romanticized, but let's also acknowledge that it was a business decision. Not only did Sam fear that his orientation would become public knowledge before he could personally tell the world on his own terms, but the reality is that a toss-up prospect slated to go in the middle rounds of the draft now has a chance to impact the sports world to a much larger degree than he did before.
The odds of him cutting it long-term in the NFL, as say a fourth-round pick, may have been 50/50. Now, though, while those odds haven't necessarily changed, he's a lock to become a pioneer in the North American sports spectrum.
Assuming he's comfortable being a face of homosexuality in sports, Sam had little to lose here. Now, he can be comfortable while also cashing in. Maybe this wasn't about money, but Sam and his agent and the rest of his inner circle know that this gives him more avenues off the football field. Public speaking roles galore, book deals, you name it.
And it goes beyond Sam himself. Here's what Tommy Tomlinson wrote for Forbes:
The team that drafts Michael Sam will immediately have thousands of new fans, and if he makes the regular-season roster, that team will make a LOT of money on jersey sales and such.
Whether it's right or wrong, and whether it was deliberate or incidental, this makes Michael Sam a larger commodity.