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Sure, ESPN’s annual award show is a bloated, cheesy exercise in self-congratulation. However, that doesn’t mean that it is incapable of providing a setting for truly heartfelt moments. One of those came when Michael Sam, the former University of Missouri football player who announced he was gay shortly before the NFL draft, was given the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
Sam displayed plenty of emotion during the draft, when he picked in the final round by the Rams, and he did so again while giving a moving acceptance speech at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. Here is a clip of the moment:
The former University of Missouri defensive lineman first updated fans on his time since the draft, during which he was picked up by the St. Louis Rams. “It’s been very positive,” he said during ESPN’s ESPYs preshow on the red carpet outside the Nokia Theatre at L.A. LIVE, noting that he loves being a pro player in his home state. Sam also praised head coach Jeff Fisher in his promise to provide a safe space for his new recruit: “We talked all about football, because that’s what matters. I was not trying to make history, I’m just trying to make an NFL roster,” Sam said of his early chats with Fisher, and added of his teammates, “They have had my back since day one.”
Looking back at his historic moment, Sam said he didn’t think he was being particularly courageous enough to be awarded at the ESPYs. “When I came out, I thought I had told all my truth and that’s all that matters. I didn’t know at the time that I was trying to be an inspiration to anyone. . . . I have no regrets.”