Michael Sam received a standing ovation on Wednesday night as he took the stage to accept the ESPY’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Sam, who became the NFL’s first openly gay player this year, brought the crowd to tears with a showstopping, emotional speech.
“The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is a big honor, one much bigger than just me. This year I had a lot of experience being part of something bigger than myself,” the St. Louis Rams defensive end said. “At times, I felt like I’d been living in a massive storm … But I’m here tonight to tell you the lessons I learned about love and respect and being true to yourself will never leave me.”
“The late great Arhur Ashe wasn’t just courageous, he was brilliant too,” the 24-year-old continued as he tried not to cry. “He once put the all the wisdom in the world into three great sentences. Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. Those were the words to live by, whether you’re black or white, young or old, straight or gay…Football raised me, football taught me about hard work.”
“Arthur Ashe said do what you can … The way I see it, my responsibility at this moment in history is to stand up for everybody out there who wants nothing to be themselves openly. Recently, a friend asked me to talk to his sister, a young woman who was considering killing herself rather than [telling] her loved ones the fact that she was gay,” he said while breaking down in tears.
“When we spoke she told me that she would never consider hurting herself again, and that’s something that somehow my example helped her. It’s amazing to think that by just doing what we can, we can all touch, change and even save lives.”
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