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Hall of Famers: Sam will be judged on merit

Once Michael Sam is drafted by a pro team, the Missouri defensive end will be judged strictly on whether he can play and whether he can help his team win. Everything else — even that he is gay — will be trivial.

As the first openly homosexual player to enter the NFL draft, Sam could face scrutiny unlike any player before him. But many of the greatest players and coaches in football history don’t believe he will be subjected to any hatred, harassment, discrimination or bullying by teammates.

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“I don’t think he’ll have any problem in the locker room. I don’t think he’ll have any problems on the field,” said Art Shell, a Hall of Fame offensive tackle. “The one thing about football players, they’re inclusive. They will take you for who you are, not what people try to portray you as. It’s who you are: ‘You’re a football player, then you can play with us.’ I don’t see that as being a problem in the National Football League.”

Shell’s stance was shared by several other Hall of Famers, including Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders, Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy and New York Giants linebacker Harry Carson, who appeared along with nearly 100 other inductees at a two-day “Fan Fest” in Cleveland.

Sanders, who retired at the peak of his career after the 1998 season, believes there is an unwritten code among players to ignore anything other than a person’s skills.

“From the time you’re a kid and you start playing, you’re almost programmed for ‘Can a guy play or not?’ ” he said. “By the time you get to the NFL, that’s well ingrained.”

Sam’s revelation might not have been met with such overwhelming approval by previous generations.

“He’s a very bold guy to come out,” said former cornerback Michael Haynes, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1997. “The timing is good. If he’d done that in the ’60s or ’70s, maybe not so good because everybody was really struggling with how to understand differences like that in people.”

International soccer

Manchester City wins

Edin Dzeko scored twice to help Manchester City rally past host Everton 3-2 and stay in control of the English Premier League title race.

Dzeko scored in the 43rd and 48th minutes to give Manchester City a 3-1 lead. City (25-6-5) has 80 points and leads on goal difference over Liverpool (also 25-6-5), which plays Monday at Crystal Palace. Because of its greater goal difference, Manchester City likely would earn its second title in three years if it wins its final two matches against Aston Villa on Wednesday and West Ham next Sunday — both at home.

Fulham, which has been in the Premier League since 2001-02, was relegated along with Cardiff when they both lost and Sunderland won 1-0 at Manchester United on Sebastian Larsson’s 30th-minute goal.

Violence delays match

At least one fan and one police officer reportedly were shot before the Italian Cup final between Napoli and Fiorentina, and the fan was in serious condition.

As a result, the final started 40 minutes late, and there were scenes of violence inside the stadium, with a firefighter injured by fireworks thrown from the stands.

Napoli won the match 3-1.


• Slovakian qualifier Martin Klizan defeated defending champion Tommy Haas of Germany 6-3, 6-2 to set up a BMW Open tennis final against top-seeded Fabio Fognini of Italy on Sunday in Munich, Germany.

Fognini beat German qualifier Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 6-1 in the other semifinal.

Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain won her first career WTA title at the Portugal Open in Oeiras, while top-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic eased into the men’s final by beating Victor Hanescu of Romania 6-2, 6-2.

Suarez Navarro beat Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in their final.

Berdych will face Carlos Berlocq on Sun day after the Argentine defeated Daniel Gimeno-Traver of Spain 7-6 (7-2), 6-2.

• Quarterback Marcus Mariota was sharp in his limited appearance in Oregon’s spring football game, throwing two first-quarter touchdown passes to lead the Green team to a 27-7 victory over the Gray team. Mariota completed 6 of 7 passes for 100 yards.

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