With the 249th pick, the St. Louis Rams and the NFL joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and Texas Western College in breaking significant barriers -- a barrier few believed possible, especially as the number of spots dwindled away in the seventh round.
As was the case when Jackie Robinson and Don Haskins challenged the status quo, Michael Sam's announcement was met with both cheers and jeers. Naysayers immediately railed against the idea of a gay athlete becoming part of the NFL -- the bastion of masculinity and the fabric of the American sports culture -- while supporters, and not just those in the LBGT community, praised the selection but wondered if his "tweener" label was what really kept the SEC Defense Player of the Year from almost going undrafted.
While the debate played out on social media, it was ESPN's airing of Sam's emotional reaction to getting the call that took an already historical moment to a whole new level. Not only had the first openly gay player just been drafted, he celebrated the news by kissing his boyfriend and sharing a piece of cake -- definitely new territory for a sports network -- prompting Case McCoy, the former QB at Texas, definitely bitter after not being drafted, to tweet out his disapproval of the coverage. This was then retweeted by every one of his undrafted Texas teammates.
Pro sports have continually lagged behind the rest of society when it comes to acceptance. Michael Sam's move to the NFL provides a huge opportunity toward meshing gay athletes and the sports world while shattering the ignorant stereotypes, which were abundantly on display.
This landmark decision again puts the spotlight back on Sam, but in the way he's always wanted it: He can now finally be judged solely on his talent, his character and his performance on the field and not by his sexuality.
There's a reason it's called history-making. It's never easy. It's not without sacrifice. It pushes boundaries and is usually met with opposition. It also means you've managed to do something memorable and significant enough to influence the course of history.
On Saturday, May 10, 2014, Michael Sam, the St. Louis Rams and the NFL achieved it together.
Let them eat cake.
Follow Richard-John Mensing, Jr. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RichardMensing