Newly-signed Montreal Alouettes' defensive end Michael Sam is the first openly-gay player in the CFL, but he's far from the first trailblazer. Over the decades, the CFL has welcomed all sorts of football players turned away from the NFL for one reason or another, whether their exclusion was about race, position, size, college experience or something else. As Mike Freeman wrote in an excellent piece at Bleacher Report, Sam's signing bears many similarities to when Warren Moon came to the CFL in the late 1970s:
The best comparison to Sam is Warren Moon. Whenever I make this comparison, it drives a certain percentage of readers to hysterics. But it's completely accurate. The NFL was still backward when it came to black quarterbacks after Moon came out of the University of Washington in the late 1970s, just as the NFL (and really all of sports) is still backward when it comes to gay athletes now. For gay players, in terms of sports, this is the 1970s. That's what many people, especially when it comes to Sam, fail to realize.
Moon was only one of many talented players overlooked by the NFL who wound up succeeding in the CFL, though, and while some of that was racial prejudice, some of it was about concerns about size, speed, college experience or more. Those elements come into play with Sam, too; in particular, some have used his size (he's listed as 6'2'', 260 pounds) and his speed (he has a best 40-yard-dash time of 4.71 seconds) as reasons to write him off despite the incredible level of college production that makes his exclusion from the NFL highly unusual. Thus, regardless of whether it's bigotry, on-field concerns or a mix of both that have kept Sam out of the NFL so far, there are past CFL players who have been through similar situations. Here are five of them, just a few of the numerous cases over the years:Read More »from Michael Sam is just the latest in a long line of CFL trailblazers