Michael Sam Delivers Emotional Speech After Receiving Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs: VIDEO


St. Louis Rams player Michael Sam received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award last night at the ESPYs and delivered an emotional acceptance speech, his voice breaking several times, as he spoke about what the award meant to him.

Said Sam, in part:

The way I see it, my responsibility at this moment in history is to stand up for everybody out there who wants nothing more than to be themselves openly. Recently, a friend asked me to talk to his sister, a young woman who was considering killing herself rather than accepting and sharing with her loved ones the fact that she's gay. When we spoke, she told me she would never consider hurting herself and 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.

Watch and read the transcript, AFTER THE JUMP



"The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is a big honor. Much bigger than just me. This year I've had a lot of experience being part of something bigger than myself. At times, I've felt like I've been living in a massive storm, without knowing when the storm will end. I'm here tonight to tell you the lessons I learned about love, respect, being true to yourself will never leave me.

"The late, great Arthur Ashe wasn't just courageous. He was brilliant, too. In fact, he once put all the wisdom in the world in three short sentences: 'Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.' Those are words to live by, whether you're black or white, young or old, straight or gay. So let me tell you why these words mean so much to me, like this award does.

"First, start where you are. Like a lot of us, I didn't start on top. That only drove me to get somewhere better. I was lucky to have great father figures like Ronnie Purl, my mentor and best friend. And great coaches like Gary Pinkel and (Hitchcock's) Craig Smith, who knew my story and did everything possible to give it a better ending.

"Next, use what you have. What I have is the privilege to play a game that I love with all my heart. Football raised me. Football taught me about hard work, about discipline and about teamwork. But whatever passion or talent you have, follow it. I followed mine, and it got me all the way to this stage tonight, so I can look out and see so many of my heroes looking back at me.

"Finally, Arthur Ashe said, 'Do what you can.' Those have been very meaningful words to me. The way I see it, my responsibility at this moment in history is to stand up for everybody out there who wants nothing more than to be themselves openly. Recently, a friend asked me to talk to his sister, a young woman who was considering killing herself rather than accepting and sharing with her loved ones the fact that she's gay. When we spoke, she told me she would never consider hurting herself and 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.

"I want to take a moment to just thank some of my friends who have helped me. (Agents) Cameron Weiss and Joe Barkett, young guys who took a chance on me, just like I took a chance on them. And (public relations consultant) Ken Sunshine. Ronnie and Candy Purl, who have done so much to help me get here. My entire Mizzou family for all the support you've given me. You will always be home. And to the Rams organiztion — (owner) Stan Kroenke, (general manager) Les Snead, (head coach Jeff) Fisher and my teammates. To my mother (JoAnn Sam), a single mother who somehow raised eight kids, I love you dearly.

"Last but not least, (boyfriend and former Missouri swimmer) Vito (Cammisano). People tell me that I'm their inspiration. You are my inspiration.

"Standing here tonight looking out at all these legends who have already achieved so much is one of the thrills of my life. I promise to spend the rest of my life trying my best to live up to this honor and become the best football player I can.

"And finally, to anyone out there — especially young people — feeling like they don't fit in and will never be accepted, please know this: great things can happen when you have the courage to be yourself.

"Thank you and God bless."


  1. Matt27 says

    Good beautiful and emotional speech. He is finding his voice and is using it well.

  2. petey says

    I would rather see Michael Sam accepting sports awards before humanitarian awards. He’s being manipulated by the gay community.

  3. UFFDA says

    Glad there’s an award for courage and that this decent man won it. Shocking America as he has and, in effect, facing down all the unreported booing he has in sports bars throughout the country (you can be sure there’s been a lot) takes a titanic heart. I heart him.

  4. mike says

    I adore this man…and let him cry as much as he wants you mean old bullies…..

    He’s as tough as they come and has done some pretty legendary stuff in his life which im sure bears some emotional stirring !

    Lets save our negative energy for our enemies.

  5. Derrick from Philly says

    Watch out for people who cry (male or female). If you make them cry, sometimes, they’ll then proceed to beat the sh1t out of you.

    That’s what Louie Armstrong said about Lady Day.

    Michael Sam maybe emotional, but he isn’t weak.

  6. simon says

    Jesus also cried, at least according to some Gospels. Is Jesus a “sissy”? It must be a fact since Mike Huckleberry also confirmed that “Jesus wept”.

  7. Rowan says

    It’s a pity you couldn’t show the 10 minute video that explained his horrible, horrible life and a great quote from his coach about how low he was drafted and how it upset him.

    Poor guy. Cry, cry, CRY away man you could’ve been dead like your brothers other in prison like your other brothers.

    Not sure why he loves his Mum so much? She was never there for him…..

    Derrick, some is not even emotional. These instances are the first time he has ever really been human. Poor kid. But I agree w you though.

  8. cminca says

    I think that Michael is great. I think it took a lot of courage for him to come out.

    Can we please now let him join his team, be a football player, and just be another team mate?

    Let him play, and prove, that being gay is MEANINGLESS to his ability on the field and as a team mate. That we can be just like everyone else. That being gay should be no more controversial than being left handed.

    I’m not trying to demean Michael or anyone else–I’d just like us to get to the point that being gay is “no big deal”.

  9. Derrick from Philly says

    @ Rowan,


    I was talking about tears that turn into fierce anger (maybe needed on the football field). You were talking about tears that come when one thinks about overcoming great adversity.

    There’s a song sung in Black American churches that says, “How I Got Over…how did I make over after all these years. You know, my soul looks back and wonder…how did I make it over?”

    Maybe Mr Sam was feeling something like that.

  10. Rick says

    Men should not have to live in emotional straitjackets. And one sometimes cannot control the urge to cry. Straight men–including athletes–will often experience that when in front of audiences,,,,and it is understood by most people.

    THAT SAID, and although it may be unfair, for the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team to repeatedly break into tears at an event like this–not just once, but several times–and for him to have done so in other instances……is going to tend to reinforce stereotypes about gay men as being weak and “woman-like” and will give ammunitiion to those who are hoping that he fails.

    He therefore needs to learn to control himself somewhat–he is supposed to be a role model and, as a pioneer, he has a great reponsibility to bear to other gay men that may follow in his path….but will find it difficult to do so if he muddies that path along the way.

    It is OK for men to cry, but not excessively.

  11. P Stone says

    To the bitter queens who only want to see the negative or tell Mr. Sam to stop crying- perhaps you should just stop bitching. What miserable lives you must lead. It must suck to be you.

  12. simon says

    Is that “excessive” if your beloved book told you that Jesus breaks down completely, falling to the ground on his face and prays three times to take away the cup of suffering from him…..

  13. Kieran says

    How many of us would have loved to have had an example and role model like this when we were in grade school? Kids today who are gay should be grateful that they are living in a vastly changed new world thanks to the courage and integrity of people like Michael Sam.

  14. Tyler says

    Fun fact: Rick, Petey and Jake are all the same person. He hates effeminacy, other LGBT people and expressing emotion because he’s a sociopath and deeply closeted.

    Unlike Michael Sam, who is much braver than our cowardly troll and a much better human being.

  15. Derrick from Philly says

    @ RICK,

    for a change (and I mean a big change) your first paragraph made sense–well spoken, even.

    But once you started off the second paragraph with “THAT SAID…” that was my cue to get the hell away from the rest of your comment.

  16. Dellbert says

    @P Stone: You WIN Towleroad Comments today!! Thank you for saying what I wanted to say!

  17. crispy says

    Good grief, Rick must be giving himself whiplash trying to reconcile Michael Sam’s simultaneous display of brawny and emotional behaviors.

  18. Cadence says

    I wonder if gay men reach a certain age, where they stop calling other gay men Her as a means of insulting the other person. There’s something that is incredibly homophobic about using the term her as a way of denigrating another gay male. I don’t get why so many gay men fall back on that insult. What’s next, using the word gay to insult people?

  19. MickyFlip says

    He seems like an extremely humble and awesome guy. I wish him all the best. His real test is yet to come though. I just hope he pulls through.

  20. SFshawn says

    I appreciate the REAL and HONEST emotions Michael Sam expresses and if he’s moved to cry then why judge it or diminish it?
    Crying is powerful and cathartic AND beautiful. Perhaps is more men cried instead of killing each other the world might actually evolve?

  21. SpaceCadet says

    I know now when I see comments by TRUTHER/JAKE/PETEY/RICK to just skip right over them because they are irrelevant drivel. These trolls could never be half the man Michael Sam is. That’s right, a man that cries and gets emotional because he’s saving young gay kids from killing themselves.

  22. Rowan says

    Derrick, I get you.

    I really resonate with Sam as someone who barely cried, if AT ALL during a big chunk of my life until I met someone in my 20’s who was determined to chip through with their darned kindness.

    So now, when something happens to me that makes me remember of what I’ve been through…I literally cry. It’s so weird because I’m not that emotional.

    There is a saying I think which is you have to be careful about letting love into your life when you have been hard because it makes you soft.

    Vito has made him soft!

    All good.

  23. Mike says

    This snow queen need to stop crying so much.I mean come on how will he make in in football being a big queen.I guess Vito is the top.

  24. John says

    It is a shame that tears are considered unmanly in this country just like it is a shame that sissy gay men are disgusting to butch gay men.If men opened their hearts more instead of hating so much it would be a better world. I thought Michael Sams did a wonderful job at his speech, especially when you think of where this polished, successful man came from. What an emotional year this man must have had and to have been thrust on a national stage out of obsscurity just recently.

  25. andover1 says

    Michael Sam is an inspiration to lots of gay people – young and old. To be able to publicly come out before the whole draft process and be loud and proud in the NFL before you even have a NFL career takes major balls. I respect this guy 110%

  26. Marc says

    That was perfect. It’s exactly what the LGBT community needs right now in breaking down many more walls. This is huge.

  27. radioredrafts says

    Rick, per your comment about “excessive crying” would you please put a definite vol/hr measurement on “excessive” so we all know what you mean? thanx

  28. Yawn says

    I’m happy he’s having success, but does he have to cry so much? It makes him look like an extremely wimpy/emotional person, which is exactly why people DIDN’T want gays in the NFL for along time. Go win some games.

  29. Mack says

    The butt boy is just nasty and disgusting. Nothing courageous admitting he’s having anal sex with men.Gag