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By Brandon Griggs
When football player Michael Sam came out as gay in February of last year, he gained support and encouragement from around the world.
At the same time he lost touch with his father, a self-described “old school” guy who criticized his son’s sexuality in the press.
But a year-and-a-half later, the two appear to have reconnected. The younger Sam, the first openly gay football player to be drafted into the NFL, said on Twitter Thursday that he’s talked to his father for the first time in 18 months.
“First time chatting with my dad since February 2014!!! #love #forgiveness #refocus #nextstop,” he tweeted.
The Twitter message came six days after Sam stepped away from his latest football job, as a defensive end with the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes, citing “mental health” reasons. Upon leaving Montreal Sam returned home to his native Texas, where his father lives.
The relationship between them became strained in early 2014 after Sam came out to his family and then publicly. Soon after, his father made disparaging comments in a New York Times article about Sam.
“I don’t want my grandkids raised in that kind of environment,” Michael Sam Sr. told the Times. “I’m old school. I’m a man-and-a-woman type of guy.”
In an interview in April 2015 on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” where he was a contestant, the younger Sam said he was “hurt” by his father’s comments and hadn’t spoken to him since.
In what many saw as a personal statement, Sam and “DWTS” partner Peta Murgatroyd danced their final number to the song, “I’m Not My Father’s Son.”
A star football player at the University of Missouri, Sam, 25, was drafted in May 2014 by the St. Louis Rams, but cut before the NFL season started. He then signed on with the Dallas Cowboys practice squad before being waived six weeks later.
Gay rights in the U.S. have advanced significantly in the 18 months since Sam came out. A majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage, and the Supreme Court ruled in June that same-sex couples can wed nationwide.