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now embrace without reservations."

  • 25 Jul
    NEW YORK -- Years before Michael Sam was born, gay-rights activists Kate Kendell and Paul Guequierre were already die-hard National Football League fans. [b]Matteo Darmian Jersey[/b] . Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, grew up in Ogden, Utah, far from any NFL city, and became a fan of the Los Angeles Rams because shes an Aries and liked their uniforms. For Guequierre, raised in Whitewater, Wisconsin, and now a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, it was a family affair. Treasured season tickets for the Green Bay Packers were acquired by his grandfather, passed on to his father, and now are his. The cover photo of his Facebook page shows the towering statue of a Packers wide receiver. For Kendell, Guequierre and other gay fans of the NFL, their passion for pro football was rewarded May 10 with a moment they describe as thrilling: the decision by the Rams -- now of St. Louis -- to make Sam the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team. "I feel like my support for the NFL now doesnt have an asterisk come with it," Kendell said. "Its now truly Americas game." The milestone has made gay fans more enthusiastic and already is drawing newcomers into the fold. Many may become Rams fans or -- like Guequierre -- henceforth consider St. Louis "my second favourite team." The NFL says it hasnt done any marketing research to gauge the size of its gay and lesbian fan base. Gay sports fans surveyed by Outsports said pro football was their favourite sport by far. Outsports co-founder Cyd Zeigler said that Sam -- if he makes the Rams roster -- will further boost the NFLs popularity among gays. "People who have never liked football are buying Michael Sam jerseys," he said. "People who have never watched a game watched the draft." As of midweek, Sams Rams jersey was the No. 2 seller among rookies at NFLShop.com, trailing only Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback drafted by the Cleveland Browns. Sam -- although drafted 249th out of 256 players -- also was among just 10 draftees selected by the league to be featured on special bronze and silver commemorative coins, according to NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy. Howard Bragman, a public relations expert who has been working with Sam, expects the NFL and advertisers to capitalize on fans excitement over Sams debut. "The first time he plays, youre going to have huge numbers watching," said Bragman, the vice chairman of Reputation.com. "The NFL is a business," Bragman added. "It understands very well that LGBT fans are passionate, they have good incomes, theyre concentrated in NFL cities." Sam already has done a nationally televised ad for Visa. "The tide has turned," Bragman said. "Martina Navratilova said she lost endorsements after she came out. Youll find that Michael will do very well." That doesnt mean the NFLs advertisers will shift their focus away from heterosexual young males, nor are sexy female cheerleader squads likely to disappear. But gay fans may be all the more at peace with such things. "We know who theyre marketing to with those ads," said Guequierre. "Most (gay) people I know are OK with that. We dont feel like were being left out." Now based in Washington, D.C., Guequierre, 36, tries to attend at least one Packers home game per year, and makes his tickets for the other games available to relatives and friends, including a lesbian couple who are devoted fans. Guequierre said gay fans, like gay athletes, increasingly feel less pressure to conceal their sexual orientation while at games. He recalled an incident at a Packers game a few years ago, when he stood up and vocally scolded a fan behind him who had called a Chicago Bears player a homophobic slur. "No one else gave me a hard time," Guequierre said. "The guy looked embarrassed. ... He came across as the bad guy." Guequierres passion for football extends to the playing field -- hes an avid competitor in the D.C. Gay Flag Football League, which has 20 teams and about 275 players. One of the main sponsors is Nellies Sports Bar, one of a wave of gay sports bars that have opened up in cities nationwide. Doug Schantz, co-owner of Nellies, says there are now 25 TVs in the bar, all tuned to sports, with pro baseball and the NFL neck-and-neck as the most popular. "With the Redskins, it doesnt matter if theyre bad or good," Schantz said. On the other side of the country, Kate Kendell has settled into San Francisco, and is a zealous 49ers fan -- though her girlhood love of the Rams is now rekindled. She has raised her 17-year-old son to share her football passions. "On Monday nights, we break with tradition of sitting around the table as family," Kendell said. "We all watch the game. I leave office early to make sure were there for kickoff." Kendell expressed delight that gay youths would now be able to grow up with openly gay sports stars as role models. "Many of my gay male friends are not sports fans -- not because of lack of interest, but because their earliest introduction to sports made them feel stigmatized and shamed," she said, evoking epithets such as "You throw like a girl." "While surely there will continue to be homophobic remarks, there is a sense of a corner being turned," she said. "What I feel more than anything is a sense of elation and joy, that the game I loved since I was a kid I can now embrace without reservations." [b]Eric Bailly Jersey[/b] . -- LeBron James warned the Orlando Magic to stop double-teaming him and ignoring James Jones. [b]Sergio Romero Manchester United Jersey[/b] . CEO Steve Koonin on Tuesday told the Hawks flagship radio station that he made the decision to discipline Ferry but allowed him to keep his job managing the team. He did not say what the punishment was, but noted that he relied on a law firms three-month investigation of Ferry and him describing Deng as someone who has a little African in him.Almost 15 years after David Beckham scored his memorable free-kick against Greece, heres another goal that brings back memories of the former Manchester United and England midfielder. This one was scored by non-league Leamingtons Jack Edwards.With his side leading Cinderford 4-0 in the Evostik Southern League Premier Division, Edwards picked the ball up just inside the opposition half, looked up and hit a long-range effort that flew over the keeper and into the back of the net. Leamington scored again to seal a 6-0 win and bounce back from their defeat to lleaders Slough Town in impressive style. [b]Lee Grant Jersey[/b]. Next up for Leamington is a trip to Dorchester Town this Saturday.Check out the goal by hitting play on the video at the top of the page.You can watch Englands tour of Bangladesh, plus Premier League football and the Japan Grand Prix on Sky Sports. Upgrade now and enjoy three months at half price! Also See: Transfer Centre Latest transfer news Transfer betting Paper Talk ' ' '