The Washington Post

Doug Williams commends gay NFL prospect Michael Sam for his courage

Redskins personnel executive Doug Williams said that Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam should be commended for the courage he displayed when he announced on Sunday that he is gay – a move that could impact his stock in the NFL draft.

Although the NFL doesn’t have any openly gay players, Williams doesn’t think Sam’s declaration should hurt his chances of being drafted. He also doesn’t believe that Sam will encounter harsh locker room conflict if drafted.

Doug Williams Doug Williams, the former Grambling coach who joined the Redskins front office on Monday, had kind words for Michael Sam. (Brett Duke/The Times-Picayune, via AP)

“No. 1, I think we’ve got to take our hats off to the young guy because No. 1, he did something that takes a lot of courage,” Williams said. “I’m sure he thinks it could hurt his draft status. Or it could help it. But at the end of the day, the locker room is what it is. You get a lot of people talking about the locker room, but at the end of the day, if you have not been in a locker room, you would never really understand a locker room. When you look at it, for five years, this young guy has been in a locker room. He’s been in the locker room with his teammates and they put their arms around each other and they went out and played. They had a heck of a season: finished No. 5 in the whole country, which means it wasn’t a big deal to them. They went out and played. At the NFL level, the bottom line is where does he rate as a player with the team that’s going to end up drafting him? That’s the bottom line and how we have to look at it. It was like I told someone earlier, Russell Wilson won the Super Bowl and nobody talked about him being black. I think eventually, we have to get to that point when we talk about people’s sexuality and get to that point where you say, ‘Hey, that’s their preference, but if he’s a good football player, and if he can help us win, he can be on my team.’ ”

That doesn’t mean Sam will completely avoid conflict or scrutiny from potential teammates, however, Williams said.

“I think we all understand that there are going to be some knuckleheads out there now. That ain’t going to ever change,” he said. “But you’ll have enough people that are mature enough to understand that society has changed over the last 10 to 15 years and you have to accept people for what they are or what have you. But you’ll have some knuckleheads who will put stuff out there online and things like that. But at the end of the day, if this guy is strong enough to come out, he’s strong enough to handle a whole lot of stuff.”

Doug Williams Doug Williams quarterbacked the Redskins to a championship in 1988. (Lucian Perkins/The Washington Post)

Williams himself served as one of the sports’ pioneers, becoming the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl. He did so during an era where few African Americans received the opportunity to play quarterback in the NFL. Williams said his situation doesn’t carry similarities to that of Sam’s, however.

“I don’t think it’s equal because being an African American quarterback in my time, I never had a problem in the dressing room with one player,” Williams said. “Not one player ever said anything out of line to me in the dressing room, so it’s totally different. But, you don’t know what might transpire in a dressing room. It’s like I said earlier, if you’ve never been in a dressing room, you wouldn’t understand a dressing room.”

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.

More from The Post:

Williams’s role includes college and pro evaluation | Williams hired

Should Redskins part with Meriweather? | Offseason questions series

Missouri draft prospect Michael Sam announces he is gay

The Early Lead: Who is Michael Sam? | Video | Is NFL ready?

Two members of Congress weigh in on Redskins’ name

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.



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Mike Jones · February 10, 2014