Michael Sam has captivated the attention of the NFL world, for better and worse. (Tim Sharp/AP)
Perhaps privately, some players share the sentiments expressed by several NFL executives to SI on Michael Sam's announcement: that the league is not yet ready to embrace a gay athlete. Publicly, however, the reactions have been mostly positive -- none more so than that of wide receiver Donte Stallworth, who ranted on Twitter against the notion that Sam's sexuality could be a locker room distraction.
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"If any NFL team can't 'handle the media coverage' of drafting Sam, then your team is already a loser on the field... let me tell you why..." Stallworth began, before spending about an hour discussing the situation.
"There are a multitude of issues that can arise in the long duration of an NFL season... some on the field, some off the field. You won't have any idea what that on the field/off the field situation is until it's already upon you and the entire organization," he continued. "Which means that with drafting Michael Sam, you get a jump start on controlling the 'media coverage' right from the onset."
Stallworth then contrasted the situations that the Dolphins and Patriots faced during the 2013 season: Miami's 4-4 record and a missed shot at the playoffs after the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito scandal vs. New England winning the AFC East despite Aaron Hernandez's arrest and a media swarm surrounding Tim Tebow in the preseason.
The Patriots succeeded, Stallworth argued, "because [Patriots owner Robert] Kraft and Bill Belichick would not allow ANY of that to be a "distraction" to ANYONE in the entire organization..."
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Another former NFL wide receiver, Patrick Crayton, was far less sympathetic to the situation. He tweeted upon Sam's announcement: "Oh wow!! There goes the NFL!"
He followed that comment up with: "Stay in the closet and keep to urself (sic)!!!"
More from Crayton (warning: R-rated language):
Meanwhile, current Giants defensive back Charles James tweeted (then later deleted): "1) your business is your business I don't care! 2) When did this become a heroic act? 3) I'm pissed because I can't even watch ESPN."
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Here are some other reactions from NFL players, including those tweeted out by Incognito and Martin: