Michael Sam Honored at the ESPYs

7.17.2014

By Jerry Portwood

When accepting the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, NFL's first openly gay player told young people: "We can save lives"

Photo: Getty

On Wednesday, Michael Sam (Out's August Cover Star) was honored with Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2014 ESPY Awards. Not limited to athletes, the award recognizes people in the sports industry who have broken down barriers. Previous recipients include Robin Roberts and Billie Jean King.  

Accepting the award from Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Sam was greeted with a standing ovation before delivering a touching speech inspired by Ashe's own words. "Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can," Sam said — and then adding: "Those were the words to live by, whether you're black or white, young or old, straight or gay. ... Football raised me, football taught me about hard work."

SLIDESHOW | EXCLUSIVE MICHAEL SAM PHOTOS FOR OUT

Clearly moved, the emotional Sam also said:

"The way I see it, my responsibility at this moment in history is to stand up for everybody out there who wants nothing more than to be themselves openly. Recently, a friend asked me to talk to his sister, a young woman who was considering killing herself rather than accepting and sharing with her loved ones the fact that she's gay. When we spoke, she told me she would never consider hurting herself and that somehow my example helped her. It's amazing to think that, by just doing what we can, we can all touch, change and even save lives."

The St. Louis Rams player also thanked his college football "Mizzou family," Rams coaches and teammates, family, and boyfriend Vito Cammisano. Sam, who called the award "one of the thrills of my life" finished his powerful speech by saying "I have no regrets."

Watch the full speech below:

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