The LGBT community has been saddened by news that openly gay footballer Michael Sam has decided to suspend his sporting career.
On Friday, the 25-year-old athlete took to social media to make the heartbreaking announcement.
“The last 12 months have been very difficult for me to the point where I became concerned with my own mental health,” he wrote.
“Because of this I am going to step away from the game at this time. I thank the Alouettes for this opportunity and hope to be back on the field some day soon. Thank you all for your understanding and support.”
Sam’s fans expressed their concern and wished him well, with one writing: “It takes courage to play the game and even more courage to step away. You are an inspiration to so many Michael.”
There’ve been signs that Sam has been under growing pressure following the immense public scrutiny that resulted from his high profile coming out in February 2014.
As the first openly gay American football player, he was praised by President Obama and became something of an international media darling.
There has also been speculation that he has broken up with his fiancé Vito Cammisano, adding to his woes.
The promising college star player struggled to secure a home in America’s NFL (National Football League) after coming out, but was recently signed to the Montreal Alouettes in Canada.
Just weeks later he asked to go home, for unknown reasons, before returning to the team last month. The latest move could well signal an end to his career.
“While other gay athletes have made their way through sports, no one can fully understand what Sam has been through – No one has ever done what he’s done either before or after his announcement in February 2014,” wrote Outsports.com’s Cyd Zeigler.
“Whatever Sam is dealing with now, we hope he finds solace and direction and, if he wants to play football again, that he finds his way back onto the gridiron,” he added.