The Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday cut Michael Sam, the first openly gay active NFL player. The Texas-based team was the second franchise to sign him.
The defensive end was let go by St. Louis Rams in August, who made history when they drafted him in the seventh round earlier this year. He was later signed by the Cowboys for their practice squad, where he remained for seven weeks.
Last month, reports claimed that Sam was performing well in practice and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Sam's sexuality was a "dead issue" in an interview with USA Today on Oct. 19.
The 24-year-old tallied three sacks and 11 tackles over four preseason games, but it appears that his performance on the field was not enough to earn him a permanent spot on an NFL roster.
Still, the relative lack of controversy over Sam's presence in the league should be viewed as a successful advance for the cause of LGBT rights and equality. Most of Sam's fellow players were publicly supportive of him, and with the exception of a widely criticized ESPN report, which claimed there was anxiety among athletes about showering with Sam, press coverage was also positive.
“Sam is hardly the NFL's first gay player, just as Jason Collins wasn't the first gay player in the NBA,” wrote USA Today's Nancy Armour. “They're just the first ones to be open about it during their careers. But Sam has insisted since coming out that he wants nothing more than to be treated as a football player — not a gay football player, a football player. And that's exactly what the Cowboys and their fans have done.”
In a statement on Twitter, Sam was sanguine about being waived by "America's Team".
"I want to thank the Jones family and the entire Cowboys organization for this opportunity, as well as my friends, family, teammates, and fans for their support," Sam wrote. "While this is disappointing, I will take the lessons I learned here in Dallas and continue to fight for an opportunity to prove that I can play every Sunday."
Sam has yet to say whether he will continue to compete for another spot on a professional football squad. But he is still eligible to join any NFL team.