It is statistically impossible that Michael Sam, the University of Missouri football star who declared this week that he is gay, will be the first gay player in the National Football League.
But due to "unwritten rules," also known as overt bigotry, gay athletes in the NFL and other professional sports leagues have had to live separate lives on and off the field.
The broad positive reaction to Mr. Sam's insistence on being himself demonstrates the degree to which public perception has shifted.
Mr. Sam told his Missouri teammates of his sexual orientation before the most recent season, during which the Tigers went 12-2 and played in the championship game of the powerful Southeastern Conference. Mr. Sam, a defensive end, was the conference's defensive player of the year. His and his teammates' performances flatly debunked the notion that an openly gay player on a high-level sports team is disruptive.
Mr. Sam, prior to his announcement, was projected as being selected within the first three rounds of the impending NFL draft. It is telling that most of the handful of players, coaches and others who have objected to Mr. Sam's presence in an NFL locker room have done so anonymously.
Mr. Sam's announcement shows that, now, it's bigotry that must live in the shadows.