When NFL prospect Michael Sam came out publicly as gay Sunday, he was largely applauded for his honesty and bravery by everyone from NFL players, coaches and executives to the Obamas.
Sam’s father had received the news several days earlier. His reaction wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic.
Michael Sam Sr. was celebrating his birthday at a Denny’s near his home outside Dallas on Feb. 4 when he got a text message from his son.
The All-American defensive lineman out of Missouri wrote: Dad, I’m gay.
“I couldn’t eat no more, so I went to Applebee’s to have drinks,” Sam Sr. told the New York Times. “I don’t want my grandkids raised in that kind of environment.”
He added: “I’m old school. I’m a man-and-a-woman type of guy.”
And so he is. The elder Sam said he took another son to Mexico to lose his virginity and grumbled that Hall of Famer Deacon Jones “is turning over in his grave” at the idea of an openly gay man in the league.
The younger Sam had a tough childhood as one of eight siblings. His parents eventually separated, so his father wasn’t always around. At one point, Sam had his own room at a close friend’s house.
“I’m closer to my friends than I am to my family,” said Sam, who started coming out to friends and teammates as many as two years ago.
Still, Sam Sr. said he loves his son and wants him to succeed in the NFL.
“As a black man, we have so many hurdles to cross,” he said. “This is just one he has to cross.”