COLUMBIA, Mo. - University of Missouri's Head Football Coach Gary Pinkel addressed the media for the first time on Monday after former player Michael Sam publicly announced he is gay.
Pinkel said after Sam came out to his team last August, his teammates embraced him, and that it was up to Sam on how he wanted to handle the situation.
"I said, Michael, I'm really proud of you; I love you; and I hugged him," Pinkel said on Monday.
Sam's sexuality was an open secret among his teammates.
Pinkel said it was never a distraction. "I think while some of the players might not agree, or have their own opinion on it, maybe not favorably quite possibly, but that's okay," Pinkel said. "It's not about what my opinion is on it either, it's about being respectful to people."
Pinkel mentioned the team's core values is all about respecting each other regardless of cultural difference or sexual orientation.
"I'm very proud of Michael Sam. Very proud of our football team and how we've dealt with this," Pinkel said.
Pinkel says he hasn't spoken to Sam since the announcement, but Sam did come to see him on Friday. He also mentioned Sam told him at the beginning he didn't want his sexuality to be a distraction. He just wanted to focus on winning games.