He may not have a ringing endorsement from former coach and current NBC analyst Tony Dungy, but judging by his jersey sales, Michael Sam is already a fan favorite.
Sam’s jersey is the sixth best-selling in the NFL. He falls right between Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (No. 5) and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (No. 7).
Here’s the entire list, courtesy of ESPN’s Darren Rovell:
1. Johnny Manziel, Browns
2. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
3. Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
4. Peyton Manning, Broncos
5. Richard Sherman, Seahawks
6. Michael Sam, Rams
7. Tom Brady, Patriots
8. Drew Brees, Saints
9. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
10. “12th man,” Seahawks
Dungy, former coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts, drew attention Monday after reiterating his personal anti-gay stance when asked about Sam. Dungy is deeply religious. He told the Tampa Tribune: “I wouldn’t have taken him. Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it.”
It appears there’s an economic upside to being an openly gay professional athlete, at least if you’re a trailblazer. After Jason Collins came out and signed a 10-day contract to play for the Brooklyn Nets, his No. 98 jersey became the best-selling jersey in the NBA. The league donated the proceeds, more than $100,000 in February, to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and the Matthew Shepard Foundation. Sam recently gave an impassioned and emotional acceptance speech at the ESPY awards ceremony, where he was given the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.