Browns owner Jimmy Haslam issued a statement tonight in support of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, who appears to be on the verge of becoming the first openly gay NFL player.
Sam, the co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year last season, came out to the world Sunday night. NFLDraftScout.com projects him to be picked in the third or fourth round in May’s draft.
Haslam joined several NFL decision-makers, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway, who have assured the rest of the league that they would embrace Sam as a member of their team.
“Absolutely we would welcome Michael Sam to the Cleveland Browns organization if he can help us win games and is the right football player for this team,” Haslam said in the statement. “We are intent on creating an environment that is supportive, accepting and respectful of individual rights and differences.”
There is at least one prominent Browns player who would lead the charge in welcoming Sam if he ended up in Cleveland.
Last year, Browns inside linebacker and defensive captain D’Qwell Jackson predicted the NFL was on the brink of having its first openly gay player. Jackson said that was one of the reasons he felt compelled to become an ambassador for Athlete Ally in May 2013. Athlete Ally is an organization dedicated to ending homophobia in sports.
“I have friends that are gay and lesbian, and I just thought it was right just to bring some awareness to the locker room,” Jackson said last year. “Being a leader, if I think this is the right thing to do, maybe it can open some eyes of guys that are homophobic.
“At some point, there’s going to be a gay NFL player that comes out either this year, the next year or the year after, and you have to be ready to embrace it. And me being a leader in the Cleveland Browns locker room, it’s important that we welcome everyone.”