Michael Sam Returns to Montreal Alouettes After Abrupt Departure

Michael Sam, Jim Popp
The Associated Press

Michael Sam has returned to Montreal, making a reunion with the Alouettes a fait accompli before their second game of the Canadian Football League season.

On July 12, two and a half weeks after he signed with the Alouettes, Sam went AWOL, with the team releasing a statement claiming Sam “asked the team for special permission to leave training camp and return home for personal reasons.” The team added, “The Montreal Alouettes fully respect Michael Sam’s decision and we rally around him to offer all the support needed. The team has left the door open and Michael is welcome to come back whenever he feels ready.”

On Thursday afternoon, during the Alouettes opening game against the Ottawa Redblacks, Joey Alfieri of TSN radio tweeted, “Been informed that Michael Sam is back in Montreal.”

The Alouettes confirmed Thursday night that Sam, professional football’s first openly-gay player, was seen in town; other sources also asserted that he had been discovered there, according to The Guardian. Alouettes vice president and general manager Jim Popp delightedly told the Guardian, “I told you I expected him to come back. I wouldn’t have said that if I didn’t expect him to be back.” Popp had spoken to the Guardian Wednesday night, confidently asserting that he had spoken with Sam and his agents and felt certain Sam would rejoin the team, adding, “I think it will be sooner rather than later.”

After Sam left the team in July, the Alouettes put him on a suspended list as scuttlebutt circulated that Sam was quitting. After being alerted that a local sports announcer tweeted of meeting Sam at Trudeau International Airport, Alouettes head coach Tom Higgins sounded disenchanted, wondering aloud to The Montreal Gazette why Sam sat on an airplane instead of being with the team.

If Sam returns, his presence would not be mandatory until Saturday to prepare for Monday’s game, the first time the media will be able to ask any Alouettes questions.

Popp concluded, “I think he needed a break. That’s my personal belief. I think it was just overwhelming to some degree and he needs to clear his mind, clear his head.”