EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Wherever Michael Sam winds up in the NFL, he'll bring plenty of extra attention to his team as the first openly gay player in the league.
The Minnesota Vikings won't let the spotlight on Sam deter them from drafting him, should they decide his skills and potential would fit with their scheme.
"There's always going to be that media attention. Brett Favre when he came here was media attention," general manager Rick Spielman said. "The NFL regardless, you're going to have media attention and that's part of the process, to deal with it. But any player that comes in regardless of religion, race, sexual orientation and all of that stuff, it's going to be an environment where we're going to make sure they can thrive as a football player."
The Missouri defensive end revealed his homosexuality in interviews published Sunday. Most early projections have Sam, the Southeastern Conference co-defensive player of the year, being picked in the middle rounds. Some NFL general managers have since been quoted anonymously in recent reports suggesting teams might shy away drafting him, not for prejudice but fear of the potential distraction of the extra attention his presence will at least initially bring. But Spielman, in a pre-combine session with reporters at Winter Park on Friday, said he's not concerned about that.
"I don't care if a guy has three heads. Black, white, purple, green. If we got a guy that can help you win football games, it shouldn't matter and it doesn't here in this building," Spielman said. He added: "I know that we will make sure that our culture is created where he could fit in to our locker room."
Earlier this week, the Vikings released a statement from owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf.
"We commend Michael Sam for being very courageous with his openness on something of such a personal nature," the Wilfs said. "His comments will have no impact on how the Vikings view Michael as a football player or as a person. If a player can help us win, we will warmly welcome him as part of the team and provide an accepting, respectful and supportive environment to help him succeed in the NFL."