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Michael Sam Comes Out

Michael Sam Stepping Away From Football

Michael Sam, who was the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team in the league's history, said Friday he will "step away" from football, and his Canadian Football League team said he left the organization.

"The last 12 months have been very difficult for me, to the point where I became concerned with my mental health," Sam said in a series of Twitter posts. "Because of this I am going to step away from the game at this time."

Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams last year but was later cut. He was signed by the Montreal Alouettes in May. The Alouettes announced Friday that the defensive end "has left the team for personal reasons." The team said he would be placed on the suspended list.

Sam did not say when he would return, but he thanked the Alouettes and said he hopes "to be back on the field soon."

Sam made his debut with the Alouettes Aug. 7 but did not record a tackle in the team's 26-23 loss to the Ottawa Redblacks. Sam also left the team's training camp in June for personal reasons, the team said.

Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo seemed to tweet his support Friday, telling Sam: "Always take care of Mike first. Once you do that, everything else will work out."

In his college career, Sam was a star player with the University of Missouri and was named the 2013 Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year.

After he came out in February of 2014, the NFL said in a statement that "we admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage."

Sam became the first openly gay football player drafted by an NFL team when he was picked by the Rams in the seventh round. The selection raised hopes among some gay rights advocates that attitudes in professional sports have changed.

Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said the competition was fierce, and the decision to cut Sam was a purely "football decision." After he was cut, Sam joined the Dallas Cowboys practice squad but was released by the team.