History Has to Wait

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It's hard not to be upset about this. On Saturday, the St. Louis Rams cut Michael Sam, the openly gay defensive end and LGBT trailblazer Saturday, meaning a full-fledged celebration of the NFL's first out player will have to wait for a while. Though with everyone swept up in the historic nature of Sam's story, it's worth remembering who suffered the most by this news, and that's Sam himself. He had a strong preseason for the Rams, but now he's out of a job with the start of the new NFL season just days away.

It's important to keep in mind that this is far from the end for Sam. The NFL, sad to say, is a very violent sport, and over the course of an injury-filled season, it churns through the bodies of free agents at a rapid pace. I'd bet anything that some team is going to suffer an injury, and bring Sam into the fold.

But it's disappointing all the same, and it represents a step backwards in the sport's social history. Just days ago there was one openly gay player on a roster, shedding blocks, sacking quarterbacks, and basically looking exactly like any other NFL player. Imagine that?

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It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, of course — just as a matter of statistical reality, hundreds of gay players have had successful NFL careers, but always felt the need to hide their orientations while they played.

Before Saturday, there was one player bucking that trend. Now, there are none, and that's a sad backwards step. Unless somebody else already in the league wants to steal Sam's thunder and come out of the closet before Opening Day, which doesn't seem terribly likely, history will continue to wait on Michael Sam's future.

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Tweeting after getting the bad news Saturday, Sam thanked the St. Louis Rams for giving him the chance, and made it clear that he's still on track.

It's especially sad considering the support Sam seemed to have from some of his Rams teammates. After ESPN's awkward, unnecessary reporting on Sam's showering schedule last week, defensive end Chris Long came to his defense on Twitter, blasting the network for talking about it, and implying the Rams locker room didn't care.

Other players stepped up when Sam first came out to offer their support, as well, with no less than Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith taking a public stand.

Of course, some players had predictably bad reactions, too. That's because in any group of people as huge as the NFL — over 1,600 players, on average — some are going to be politically progressive, and some regressive. But it does go to show just how ready many of the league's players may be for this kind of change.

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