This year’s ESPY Awards brought lots of laughs (thanks, Drake), and inspiration. The most memorable was probably defensive end Michael Sam’s acceptance speech after winning the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
Sam, the first openly gay NFL player, gave a touching speech on his whirlwind year and the obstacles that could have hindered his path to professional football.
“This year I had a lot of experience being a part of something bigger than myself,” he said. “At times I felt like I’d been living in a massive storm and I know the storm will end.”
He expressed his appreciation for Ashe’s mantra of “start where you are, use what you have and do what you can,” and sees it as “the words to live by, whether you’re black or white, young or old, straight or gay.”
For Sam, the ‘do what you can’ part is the most meaningful. He shared the story on how he helped a friend’s sister when she was facing the difficulty of coming out to her loved ones. “When we spoke, she told me that me that she would never consider hurting herself again and that somehow, my example helped her,” he said. While trying to hold back tears, he expressed how gratifying the outcome was, and how “by just doing what we can, we can all touch, change, and even save lives.”
Sam urged others to follow the path they love, despite what they face along the way. “I followed mine and it got me all the way to this stage tonight. Great things can happen, when you have the courage to be yourself.”