Day Before NFL Draft, Michael Sam Named Recipient Of Arthur Ashe Courage Award

The award is named for tennis player Arthur Ashe, who became an outspoken AIDS activist after contracting the disease from a blood transfusion.

1. Michael Sam, who was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year in December, will be honored for his courage and character beyond his athletic ability with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

He will receive the award at the ESPY Awards on July 16.

Usa Today Sports/Usa Today Sports

3. Sam came out in February, becoming the first-ever out gay NFL prospect. He told ESPN:

I understand how big this is. It’s a big deal. No one has done this before. And it’s kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be … I want to be a football player in the NFL.

Michael Sam with Wade Davis, Chris Kluwe, Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Billy Bean.

5. Shortly after Sam came out, Wade Davis, a former NFL player who came out after retiring and now heads the You Can Play Project, spoke about Sam’s impact on sports culture:

His presence has the potential to reframe all the misconceptions about masculinity in athletics, about LGBT tolerance among African-Americans, and about homophobia in rural areas. I wondered if he truly grasped the significance of this moment that would change lives for gay men and women in sports going forward. Then I decided that it doesn’t really matter if he does. He’s here to play football.

6. He appeared on Good Morning America Wednesday morning to discuss the upcoming draft and the responses he’s received after coming out. On receiving the Arthur Ashe award, Sam said:

It’s a great honor to be presented this award… I just feel like because I came out and was the first one to do it, I think I can be a beacon for others, with young athletes, who may be gay or may not. I think I can be a beacon for those people, a light, like ‘Hey, I can be comfortable in my own skin and be like Michael Sam.’

7. He told GMA his decision to come out has been met with support from many other closeted athletes.

8. Sam joins an elite group of recipients of the Ashe Award, including Nelson Mandela, Pat Tillman, Billie Jean King, and Muhammad Ali.

9. Sam will enter this weekend’s NFL draft, where he’ll be a late-round pick.

Pat Lovell/Usa Today Sports

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