I've been a bit disappointed in myself that I haven't written anything about this yet, but in the interim, others have said everything I might have thought to say anyway. So read them. This is a tough situation, and I hope he is able to get the peace he needs in the coming days/weeks/months.
First, the basics:
It is all so heartbreaking. Sam has clearly struggled with adapting to the spotlight and the world of professional football. Slotted as a draft pick and regular contributor 18 months ago, we have watched as every step forward has been met by a step backward for his career. While other gay athletes have made their way through sports, no one can fully understand what Sam has been through - No one has ever done what he's done either before or after his announcement in February 2014.
Whatever Sam is dealing with now, we hope he finds solace and direction and, if he wants to play football again, that he finds his way back onto the gridiron.
Then, a relatively simple message.
I asked Ray about lessons he learned from what happened, lessons he could share with Colorado-based athletes about having an LGBTQ teammate.
"Honestly, the only lesson is, in this day and age, it's something you might have to deal with," Ray said, "so more than anything, you've got to have the mental capacity to understand that and worry about your own business. And that's what it was. Whatever Mike did, that's what Mike did. He came in, got his job done, he worked, he left. You've got to accept it, whether you like it or not, because that's what it is. ...
"He's on your team, he's not going to go anywhere, so you have to deal with it." [...]
Whatever your thoughts are about gay social issues, the reality is they will stay front and center. More athletes are going to have the bravery to come out. It's happening in real time. Life is short. We're all just humans. Just be nicer. Please.
(The comments are exactly what you would expect.)
Finally, here's Kate Fagan on the fallout.
Sam's on-field disappointments create an uncomfortable space for the LGBT sports movement. This could be a chance for the movement to grow, but that growth would involve acknowledging certain missteps -- not just by Sam himself, but by those around him. Over the weekend, a young prospect in the Milwaukee Brewers farm system, David Denson, announced he is gay. He is years from making the big leagues, if he makes it at all, so these issues aren't going anywhere. But the public nature of Michael Sam's story, played out under the glare of a very bright spotlight, always ensured that his successes would resonate more.
And so, too, would his failures.
The storyline around Sam is cluttered. And that makes the future even trickier for athletes such as Denson.
Being a gay athlete is hard. But the thing too few people are talking about is that the biggest hurdle isn't winning over teammates and coaches inside the locker room. It's keeping the crush of requests -- many of them from LGBT-friendly organizations wanting to champion the athlete -- from becoming a distraction.
The takeaway for a young football player shouldn't be that you can't come out. It should be that you must have a really smart game plan for coming out. And the strategy must keep football as the focal point.
Michael Sam taught us valuable lessons. They just aren't what we expected them to be.
Michael Sam had just turned 24 years old when he came out to Outsports and others. The biggest issues I had to deal with surrounding my 24th birthday were a breakup, how to feed myself with minimal in-school cashflow, and whether and when to take a friend up on an offer to work at Barnes & Noble -- issues with about 0.000001% the gravity of being 'out' in a profession like football and in a media landscape like this.
I do not recall dealing with any of these issues in an A+ manner, by the way. I was 24.
Sam's still only 25, and this is only about Chapter 6 in a 15-chapter book. But it's sad nonetheless, and I hope Chapter 7 builds toward the eventual happy ending.