That he’ll be pressured into being an LGBT advocate while trying to start his NFL career. I say that not because I don’t think he can be one — he can — but knowing the NFL the way I do, any activism would be a detriment to his career.
Chris Kluwe and Brandon Ayanbadejo were outspoken NFL players and LGBT advocates. They are also no longer playing football, cut by the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens, respectively. Many (including myself) believe their activism played a role in their releases.
NFL teams hate distractions (and by distractions, I mean anything that’s not all football, all the time). If they see an NFL prospect spending so much of his time fighting for LGBT causes, and not preparing for the draft, they will use that as an excuse not to draft or sign him.
Some teams are already finding flimsy reasons not to draft him.
Truth be told, Sam will be an advocate simply by making an NFL roster and contributing on the field. An open gay man finding success in what is seen as the most masculine of sports (a notion I dispute for numerous reasons, but it’s there) would defy so many stereotypes and break so many barriers, there’s no need for Sam to do anything more — unless he wants to.
Just don’t pressure him into it, because that could jeopardize his playing career.
I’m not worried about how other NFL players will welcome him; his Missouri teammates never had an issue, and the NFL is such a league that anyone with skill and talent will be accepted, regardless of personal issues (see: Richie Incognito). I’m not even worried about how NFL fans will greet him; most will be supportive, but there will be those knuckleheads who provide the predictable and trite homophobic slurs in the interest of “humor.”
I’m also glad the potential first openly gay NFL player is black, because let’s be honest: the LGBT movement has looked awfully white over the years — to the point where the experiences of LGBT individuals of color have been ignored and excluded. If nothing else, Sam can be an example for LGBT youth of color to see they’re not alone.
Let Sam find his way, both in the NFL and in his life as a whole. Any activism he chooses to partake in, aside from his potentially barrier-breaking NFL career, should be at his discretion, not because the rest of us think he should.