Update at 6 p.m. ET
Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted to an NFL team, has been released by the St. Louis Rams, the team has announced.
“Sam’s efforts to become the first openly gay player in NFL history came up just short in a competition against undrafted rookie Ethan Westbrooks.
“Westbrooks is one of nine defensive linemen to land a roster spot.
“Sam officially hit waivers Saturday at 4 p.m. ET when all NFL teams had to trim their rosters down to the league-mandated 53 players. From there, the other 31 teams will have 24 hours to put in a claim for Sam.
“According to one league source, the Rams would like to bring Sam back to their 10-man practice squad.”
Sam, who played defensive end for Missouri in college, was picked 249th out of 256 in the May draft after coming out earlier in the year about his homosexuality.
When the player learned the news, ESPN cameras were rolling as Sam and his boyfriend embraced and kissed, sparking a social media firestorm from some who felt the display was inappropriate.
Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of OutSports, a sports news site that’s dedicated to LBGT athletes, said in an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered in May, that he didn’t think that Sam’s homosexuality would be a deciding factor, but he also suggested that the groundbreaking nature of the move would make it difficult for the Rams to drop him.
“[Everything’s] going to be decided on his ability to help the team win, but I don’t think the Rams became the first team ever to draft an openly gay player just to be the first team to cut an openly player,” Zeigler told ATC host Melissa Block. “I think that probably somewhere in the back of somebody’s head in the Rams organization is the idea that maybe we should find some way to keep him.”
Another NFL team could now sign Sam to its roster, or the defensive end could wind up back with the Rams, on their practice team.
Sam has commented on his release on Twitter, thanking the Rams and the city of St. Louis for giving him the opportunity to play and writing, “I look forward to continuing to build on the progress I made here toward a long and successful career.”