By Steve Patterson
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — NFL Prospect Michael Sam’s decision to announce to the world that he’s gay is having far reaching effects on athletes of all ages.
“I came to tell the world that I’m an openly proud gay man,” Sam said told ESPN in a bombshell interview.
Philadelphians who made similar declarations are speaking out about the impact.
“Yeah, this is a breakthrough moment,” said State Rep. Brian Sims. “It’s one of the things about trailblazers. The hardships they encounter won’t be the same hardships that the people who follow them will encounter.”
In 2000, Sims was an All-American who led Bloomsberg University to a Division II NCAA National Championship game. In an unprecedented announcement, he later came out to his team, becoming the first openly gay college football captain in NCAA History.
“They simply just asked me: ‘Hey Sims, are you gay?’ I said ‘yeah’ and we spent a lot of time talking about it,” he said.
Sims said while others may disagree or downplay the announcement Sam is making, this is a big deal for younger athletes who may be struggling with identity.
“That’s why this is so important,” Sims said. “He’s making sure that the next out college athlete and the college athlete after him don’t have to go through the same scrutiny that he’s going through.”
Lypheng Kim, a High School Senior and track athlete at Mastery Charter in South Philly, came out nearly one year ago to his entire school. He says he said there was a little bullying but his teammates were supportive.
“It was easy,” Kim said. “Everyone was accepting of who I was.”
Kim said the support has continued to pour in but that he deals with slight bullying and a family structure that isn’t as accepting.
“I only got a little discrimination from students, but from my family, it was a rough time and it still is,” Kim said.
It’s why the runner said a professional athlete in the nation’s biggest sport is such a landmark moment: Another figure to remind others that they’re not alone.