The support at Missouri for former defensive end Michael Sam, who is attempting to become the NFL's first openly gay player, has drawn unilateral praise from those closest to the Tigers program -- most importantly from Sam himself.
But that doesn't mean the team's knowledge of Sam's sexual orientation didn't come without its challenges. Asked by cbssports.com about instances of insensitivity, Tigers strength coach Pat Ivey said any problems were addressed by authority.
"There was that going on. But who's supervising the environment? Who's educating that young freshman? 'Hey, that's not the right thing to say. You may have said that for your first 18 years but for the rest of your life, or at least the rest of your time at Missouri, you won't use gay slurs. You won't use racial slurs. You won't use sexual innuendo. You won't do that here,'" said Ivey, who was in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine. "That's on Coach (Gary) Pinkel. That's on (director of athletics) Mike Alden. That's on me. Every day we're talking about respect. I have to do it often. 'Hey, pull your pants up. That's disrespectful to show your underwear. Hey, let the lady get a nutrition bar first.' We talk about that every day."
Missouri quarterback James Franklin has been the only player to even hint at a problem with it, saying he was accepting, but not supportive, of Sam. Cornerback E.J. Gaines said at the combine that Sam had a high level of support -- a "brotherhood" -- in the Missouri locker room, something Sam has confirmed since announcing he was gay several weeks ago. Missouri students have supported Sam as well, forming a "Stand with Sam" rally when a church group picketed against Sam on the Missouri campus. But to Ivey, youngsters aren't responsible for setting the tone for acceptance.
"The athletes are not responsible for setting our culture and our environment," Ivey said.
Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.