Openly Gay Athletes and the Struggle for Tolerance

Michael Sam and other sports stars speak out for equality.

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Michael Sam - All-American defensive lineman from the University of Missouri Michael Sam announced Sunday that he is gay and may become the first openly gay player drafted to the NFL. Sam's "openness" about his sexuality comes after NBA veteran Jason Collins became first active openly gay player in major U.S. sports. Keep reading to learn about other athletes who have come out publicly or who have spoken out for tolerance. — Britt Middleton and Dominique Zonyéé (@DominiqueZonyee)  (Photo: Brandon Wade, File/AP Photo)

Jason Collins - Collins came out publicly in an essay posted Monday on Sports Illustrated's website. In a phone call, President Obama reportedly told Collins he was "impressed by his courage,? while First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted her support. Collins is currently a free agent and says he wants to continue playing. (Photo: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

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Jason Collins - Collins came out publicly in an essay posted Monday on Sports Illustrated's website. In a phone call, President Obama reportedly told Collins he was "impressed by his courage,” while First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted her support. Collins is currently a free agent and says he wants to continue playing. (Photo: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

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Brittney Griner - Two days after being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 WNBA draft, Brittney Griner opened up about being a gay athlete. "If I can show that I'm out and I'm fine and everything's OK, then hopefully the younger generation will definitely feel the same way," she said in an interview with Sports Illustrated. (Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

John Amaechi - In 2007, three years after retiring, John Amaechi became the first openly gay former NBA player. (Photo: Andy Lyons /Allsport)

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John Amaechi - In 2007, three years after retiring, John Amaechi became the first openly gay former NBA player. (Photo: Andy Lyons /Allsport)

Greg Louganis - U.S. Olympic diving legend Greg Louganis first opened up about being a gay athlete as well as living with HIV in his 1995 book, Breaking the Surface. (Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)

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Greg Louganis - U.S. Olympic diving legend Greg Louganis first opened up about being a gay athlete as well as living with HIV in his 1995 book, Breaking the Surface. (Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)

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Brendon Ayanbadejo - Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who has said he is heterosexual, has been vocal about gay rights since 2009. Last fall, he notably rallied for marriage equality in the state of Maryland. (Photo: Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Chris Kluwe - In March, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe joined Ayanbadejo on the steps of the United States Supreme Court as justices heard opening arguments on California's ban on same-sex marriage. Additionally, Kluwe and Ayanbadejo filed an amicus brief in case. (Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

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Chris Kluwe - In March, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe joined Ayanbadejo on the steps of the United States Supreme Court as justices heard opening arguments on California's ban on same-sex marriage. Additionally, Kluwe and Ayanbadejo filed an amicus brief in case. (Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Jim Mora - In a recent video supporting tolerance in athletics, UCLA football coach Jim Mora endorsed gay athletes and coaches, becoming the first major college football coach to step out into the forefront of the issue. (Photo: William Mancebo/Getty Images)

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Jim Mora - In a recent video supporting tolerance in athletics, UCLA football coach Jim Mora endorsed gay athletes and coaches, becoming the first major college football coach to step out into the forefront of the issue. (Photo: William Mancebo/Getty Images)

Sheryl Swoopes - Sheryl Swoopes won three gold Olympic medals (1996, 2000, 2004) and blazed a trail in the WNBA during her time with the Houston Comets, Seattle Storm and the Tulsa Shock. When she filed for bankruptcy in 2004, she reportedly owed nearly $75,000, citing mismanagement by her agents and lawyers. ?Sometimes these teams are unequipped and don?t have the credentials a planner should have,? says Leo Tucker, a managing partner for Northwestern Mutual. But, he adds, it?s also up to the athlete to exercise restraint. ?A successful career in sports can last long beyond the field if they can handle delayed gratification. Some of today?s earnings should be planned for tomorrow.?(Photo: Chuck Myers/MCT/Landov)

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Sheryl Swoopes  - Sheryl Swoopes, the first player signed in the WNBA, talked openly about her relationship with then-partner Alisa Scott in 2005. Her personal life again became the subject of scrutiny in 2011, when it was reported that she was engaged to a man, with her fans coming to her defense in the face of criticism. (Photo: Chuck Myers/MCT/Landov)

Seimone Augustus  - U.S. Olympic gold medalist and WNBA star Seimone Augustus, who is openly gay, has rallied for same sex-marriage in the state of Minnesota. (Photo: CSM /Landov)

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Seimone Augustus  - U.S. Olympic gold medalist and WNBA star Seimone Augustus, who is openly gay, has rallied for same sex-marriage in the state of Minnesota. (Photo: CSM /Landov)

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Orlando Cruz - In an interview last October with the Associated Press, featherweight boxer Orlando Cruz described himself as a "proud, gay man." He said he hoped coming out would help kids suffering from bullying to know that "who you are or whom you love should not be impediment to achieving anything in life." (Photo: J. Meric/Getty Images)

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Orlando Cruz - In an interview last October with the Associated Press, featherweight boxer Orlando Cruz described himself as a "proud, gay man." He said he hoped coming out would help kids suffering from bullying to know that "who you are or whom you love should not be impediment to achieving anything in life." (Photo: J. Meric/Getty Images)

Esera Tuaolo - Former NFL defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo came out publicly in 2002 in an interview on HBO's Real Sports. He remains an advocate for gay rights. (Photo: Jonathan Daniel /Allsport)

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Esera Tuaolo - Former NFL defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo came out publicly in 2002 in an interview on HBO's Real Sports. He remains an advocate for gay rights. (Photo: Jonathan Daniel /Allsport)