The Canadian Football League fined two players Tuesday for making inappropriate comments about openly gay NFL prospect Michael Sam.
Montreal Alouettes wide receiver Arland Bruce and Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive tackle Bryant Turner Jr. were penalized undisclosed amounts on Tuesday for postings on social media. Bruce misspelled the word "gay" in his message, which urged Sam to "man up" and get on his knees and "submit to God fully."
"The comments made by these players are extremely disappointing and do not represent the CFL's views or the views of the vast majority of our players," CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon said in a statement. "The CFL is supportive of openly gay athletes in professional sports and we commend the courage shown by Michael Sam."
The 36-year-old Bruce is a three-time CFL all-star and two-time Grey Cup champion who appeared in two NFL games with San Francisco in 2003. He and Turner both played college football in the United States, Bruce at Minnesota and Turner at Alabama-Birmingham.
While the CFL was condemning their words, Athlete Ally, a nonprofit organization formed in 2010 to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in sports, began to solicit online "signatures" from athletes and fans that will be presented to Sam as a show of solidarity.
Sam was the Southeastern Conference co-defensive player of the year last season at Missouri. He's projected to be a mid-round pick in April's NFL draft and, if so, would be the first openly gay player in league history.
The NFL has publicly pledged its support, but a Sports Illustrated article published after Sam's announcement anonymously quoted several general managers around the league suggesting lukewarm support for drafting an openly gay player.
"It's important for us to show the teams that might be considering him the draft that the public is ready," said Lia Parifax, a board member and co-founder of Athlete Ally. "This is about showing Michael the support from the community at large."
Parifax said more than 1,500 names had been collected as of Tuesday. Former Baltimore fullback Brendon Ayonbadejo, also a member of the board, helped start the campaign. Others who've voiced their support, Parifax said, are current and former NFL players Chris Kluwe, Scott Fujita and Dante Stallworth and retired tennis star Andy Roddick.
Turner apologized in a series of tweets, calling his post "inappropriate and insensitive." The Bombers said team President Wade Miller and general manager Kyle Walters have spoken to Turner.
"It is unfortunate that Bryant made this comment through social media," it said. "Any athlete with the ability and determination has the right to succeed in their sport."
The Alouettes denounced "the regrettable comments" by Bruce.
"Our organization supports all types of diversity. Every individual is unique and free to make his or her own choices," said Jim Popp, the Alouettes' general manager and coach. He said no decision had been made on whether Bruce will remain with the team.
"As an organization, we'll discuss the matter thoroughly and decide what to do next," he said.