Michael Sam has become a huge topic of discussion for many reasons since he came out publicly on ESPN in February. Debate has raged on about everything from the first openly gay NFL player, to when (or if) Sam will be drafted. The one thing that can’t be questioned, however, is that Michael Sam has — as one of the first in his chosen profession to come out in potentially the prime of his career — a lot of guts, and a lot of courage.
ESPN agrees with that sentiment, as they will be presenting the former Missouri defensive lineman with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at this year’s ESPYs. According to a press release, the award “is presented each year to individuals whose contributions transcend sports.” Past winners have included Jim Valvano, Muhammed Ali, Pat Summitt and Robin Roberts.
“Arthur always believed in and practiced leading by example,” said Ashe’s widow Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe in a statement. “When Michael Sam announced that he is gay, he courageously stepped forward to engage an issue that still remains a pervasive problem in many professional sports. Michael has displayed true leadership both on and off the field.”
The ESPYs, of course, take place on the day following the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, when typically very little (if anything) is happening in sports. Will Sam’s participation in this year’s event drive ratings up? It’s perhaps a cynical notion, but everything in these shows is meant to get you to tune in, so we’ll see if Michael Sam (deserving as he is of the award) provides a spike.