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Will Michael Sam Shake Up the NFL?

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NCAA Football: Missouri vs. McNeese State SEP 11

With the NFL season coming to a close last weekend, I wondered who in sports would commit some news to keep the media cycle spinning. Well, Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart and NFL prospect Michael Sam both came through for us.

Sam made his announcement through the New York Times in a lengthy feature that paints his coaches and teammates at Mizzou as understanding and supportive. The media reaction was swift and came down on both sides of the aisle. Many feel that Sam’s NFL future will be determined by his play on the field, largely independent from Sunday’s announcement. Others believe he hurt his draft stock and potential opportunities for professional success.

Here are the facts: Sam led the SEC in sacks and tackles for loss. He was voted team MVP by his peers, and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and All-American by the Associated Press.

Sam is seen as a middle-round prospect that could reasonably expect to be drafted before Sunday.

So what happens now?

I see a few things:

Sam will be drafted about where he should be –

This will happen for a few reasons.

First, Sam will answer every question perfectly leading into the draft.

“Do you think you will be a distraction to your teammates?”

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“No.”

“What if a teammate has a problem with you being gay?”

“I’ll talk to him about it, otherwise I’ll let my play speak for itself.”

Easy.

He’s being coached as you read this on the right way to answer all of those questions. That will go a long way to ease concerns from interested teams. michael-sam-600

The second reason is defensive ends who can tackle quarterbacks are always valuable. So there will be interested teams. Remember when Mario Williams was drafted ahead of Reggie Bush? That was a surprise at the time because the public hadn’t caught up to this idea. If Sam proves he is strong and fast enough to disrupt offenses, he’ll be coveted by many teams no matter the media storm it will create. And on that note…

That media “storm” will be a light drizzle –

Manti Te’o’s case is most appropriate here. Between his final game in college and the NFL draft, we all learned about his fake girlfriend, “her” fake death, his actual (male) friend behind the whole thing, and his feelings for Te’o.

With so much uncertainty around Te’o leading into the draft, there were thoughts that he would be drafted later than projected, and it would be a media circus for the team that chose him. Instead, he went to San Diego early in the second round, and we barely heard anything about him during the season.

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I mean, Sam is gay. At this point, everyone knows a gay person, and we can all agree that they hate Mondays, parking tickets, and paper cuts just like the “rest of us.” Right?

Once ESPN and other networks realize being gay isn’t news, they’ll stop covering it. That will happen quickly.

Sam will do everything Jason Collins was supposed to –

This one is interesting because the blueprint should have already been written. Collins made an announcement similar to Sam in Sports Illustrated. I wrote about the tepid reaction at the time.

That Collins hasn’t been signed by a team since is tricky. While most gay athletes have come out after their career, Collins was simply on his way out. He could have expected to receive an offer to sit on the end of a team’s bench (which he openly campaigned for)…but he might not be signed at this point anyway. He was the worst player rated on NBA 2K13 after all. Maybe its discrimination, maybe its turnover. It’s hard to separate the two.

Sam on the other hand is as good today as he’s ever been, and will improve with better coaching, facilities, and more experience. It’s inconceivable that all 32 teams will ignore his talent, so he will be the pioneer Collins considered himself at his announcement. Ultimately, this won’t change business as usual for Sam or the NFL.

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I don’t mean to say that Sam’s career will be exactly the same. There are idiots everywhere among us. Just check Twitter or the comment section of any related article. Thankfully, those idiots are in the minority. Plus, the team who employs Sam will be happy if he helps them win. Being gay is a distant second to sacks in this case.

What do you think? Does Sam’s announcement change his draft position or future in the NFL? Would you think twice about taking him in the fourth round? What if he were in the running for the top pick?

Hit the comments and let me know what you think!

Comment(22)

  1. I want to know if this more a media thing. Him coming to be on the spotlight. In the other hand I have also wonder since this has been such a big news, well who would come out next?

    1. In the other hand I have also wonder since this has been such a big news, well who would come out next?

      probably another black basketball player; seems like the current trend.

  2. I’m no football analysts. All is know is from what I’ve heard and read that he’s a very good player, so I can only hope this announcement doesn’t having any bearing on him being drafted or his salary.

    I think we all ( gay, straight , bi etc…) would like to get to a point where some one ” coming out” is breaking news to be placed on the front page of any new paper , magazine or blog. While some people are saying ” they don’t care what he is as long as he plays good” being gay doesn’t matter until it matters. He may have also ” came out” so he can live his life with worrying about who will see him with a male partner/ date and try to out him to TMZ.

    Also some people who say ” just live you life know one cares”( in regards to being gay) really mean ” live your life as you want as long as we don’t have to be exposed to it”. A think it’s wonderful that his college football team was so supportive , hope he will experience similar support with any NFL franchise that drafts him.

    I also think he could be an inspiration to a lot of young black Masculine gay males , who don’t feel comfortable with their own sexuality . We all know that when we see any representation of black gay males in the media , they are usually feminine representations nine times out of ten ( not saying there is anything wrong with being a feminine black gay male). But I think a lot of young black men who identify as masculine don’t always come out because they don’t want to be looked at as fem or a sissy.

    1. He mentioned coming out on his own to own the message in an interview. I think he might have known that it would leak, especially since he'd announced it to his team already.

      I really hope he's an inspiration to whoever needs it. Gay = negative is certainly reinforced while growing up to a lot of Black people. It'd be nice if he could be another high profile example of the opposite. Sucks that he has to carry the torch, but that's what happens when you're the first to step out there in the NFL.

  3. I don't know the ratio to gay/straight men in society but to think a professional football league with thousands of players past and present are all straight….Yeah. Sure. Michael Sam won't change the world but he's the perfect guy to address this elephant in the room, a quarterback or wide receiver already get certain stigmas attached, Michael Sam is a gay man who can still lay your a** out and he's young so they can't conveniently ignore him (Hi Kerry). I don't think this will boost or hurt his draft stock although Robert Kraft seems to be drooling over him (pause) then again after Peyton carved us up I'd be looking for a pass rusher too

    1. Interesting take, and I think I agree. This definitely couldn't be a kicker, lol. If he does pan out, it has to have some impact on "the stereotype".

      Damn shame about Kerry Rhodes. Although I fully expect a BET show loosely themed on his story. Just hope he gets a Producer credit.

  4. You give this country waaaay too much credit. It’s a common mistake of well-rounded and tolerant grown people. But, this is America and the NFL.

    1.ultra conservative politically – tied owners
    2. FCA
    3. Christians, Christians and more Christians
    4. dumb-asses (in the NFL and out)

    Tolerance is quiet. Intolerance is loud as f*ck. Intolerance is also quiet, like the silent pens that will be wanting to sign him on draft day.

    “Manti Te’o’s case is most appropriate here”
    Teo was a joke and some lies. This is a gay black man in the country’s most popular sport. Teo’s ish had a time limit. In today’s America, being gay in the NFL, doesn’t.

  5. I hear what you're saying. Since writing this I heard an interesting perspective. Basically, Sam could come out to his teammates and be ok because they already knew him AND he was the best player. Neither will be the case in the NFL.

    I still think this will run its course after a relatively short time. Not that everyone will forget, but how many times can you ask the same question as a media member? And once that media presence calms down, things will more or less remain the same within the team. Fans will heckle him in person and online…but that already happens.

    It could be myopia, but I see people getting tired of beating the dead horse.

  6. I see a lot of people online write “they don’t care about him being gay as long as he can play; it has nothing to do with the game”. Football is more than the 4 quarters these men play on the field. Most people who play sports become life long friends with team mates; they eat together, sleep in the same room together, hang out together, bring significant others around each other, will he be able to do those things, or will the team silently ostracize him. I think that’s where the real test begins. Not saying that everybody on the team has to be buddy buddy with him, but will the men on his team be able to look past his sexuality and see him as nothing more than one of the boys. I also wonder if (media Wise) he is praised or as popular as a RGIII for example, would he be able to talk about his fiancée, get magazine covers etc… a lot of athlete are asked about their privates lives, and allowed to share it with a positive response and support , will that same support be there for him ?

    1. He is a 3-5 round draft pick. Outside of him being gay. non QBS get no where near that amount of attention you are talking about.

      People on championship teams also don't get along all the time. Just like brothers and sisters don't get along. I'm not saying your issues aren't problems… they just don't seem large enough to block the SEC DPOY from a chance to have the greatest job on earth, being a professional athlete. Look at all the messed up things NFL players do, DUI, murder cases, wife beaters, and they still get along in the locker room and win games.

    2. You raise some good points. It reminds me of being in the military stationed on a "Male Only" (combat arms) post. Meaning all the units were 100% Males. Obviously Females worked on post in various civil service jobs and wives and girlfriends came and went. The barracks were all Male. There was a guy who most folks thought was gay. (If He Wasn't … He Missed a Good Opportunity).

      On base or in the field or during unit functions: There were no problems. In the barracks, however, No-Body Wanted to be His Room Mate. Whenever he came in the latrine (bathroom/showers) Guys always left quickly; And they would go and tell everybody else. Guys would just 'Wait it Out" until he left or Get Up Super Early to (try) Avoid Him All Together. I can't say it was wrong or right but it was what it was. I remember one day I was shaving. He came in. It was the first time I had ever encountered him in that situation. I was running late anyway so I just kept shaving. Within a minute there were guys getting out of the shower (community shower) and even some guys who were washing faces and brushing teeth packed up and got the h5ell out of there. I just kept shaving and washing my face. Formation was in 20 minutes and I didn't have time to leave or comeback so I just did me. Get back to the room to get dressed and My roommate "Popping Off" about Me and Dude in the Latrine at the same time. Ended up trying to Choke the Shaat Out of Him cause he thinks he's funny. Plus he tried to front on me with other people in the platoon.

      All I'm saying is: There are things "On the Ground" that will happen in those locker rooms that will be affected. In theory all this "Feel Good" right now … Feels Good. But in Reality this is more like a Straight Man being on a Team (in the locker room) with Women. Now … when HE comes in the Locker Room/Shower LADIES; What Do You Do??? How Do You Feel About That??? It's Cool Right???

  7. There is a slight difference between Te'o and Sam. Te'o missed the first few games of the season due to an injury suffered in the preseason and thus the press stopped talking about him. If Sam suffers an similar injury in the preseason he will not have the luxury of having the press layoff him.

    1. That's fair, but I see similarity in the fact that we got tired of talking about both. Well, we (media consumers) got tired of listening, so they (ESPN, etc) stopped covering it.

      Just not sure how you spin interesting angles out of this in six months….even one month after the draft.

      1. Just not sure how you spin interesting angles out of this in six months….even one month after the draft.

        between Tebow-mania, RG3-ism…if the World Wide Leader wanted to make this guy, and his first year journey equivalent to the new Jackie Robinson, trust and believe they can and they will

        1. True. But I think Tebow and RG3 are a little different because you can evolve those stories. Tebow's success turned into him being traded…turned into will he play for the Jets?…turned into will he be traded…and so on.

          RG3 had the injury, recovery, and coach drama to fan the flames.

          Sam will definitely be under the microscope, but I think he'll give the standard cliche'd answers, and interest will wane. Someone will say something stupid. But Sam won't react.

          Another factor is that I think he'll be a solid, yet unspectacular player. That's important. That will keep him employed, but largely uninteresting.

  8. I can’t really predict how teams will look at Sam (tho I’m sure all the GMs are actually grateful he put his orientation out there well before Draft Day so the media hype is slightly watered down by then), but the league offices themselves must be grateful. Btw Aaron Hernandez, Incognito, and the concussion settlement that just got thrown out cuz the judge thought the NFL got off too easy, I’m sure the league is ok with riding the net positivity of Sam’s story for a bit. One of the biggest political stories of the moment is how gay marriage bans are being struck down all over America, and football mirroring that movement will deff help the NFL PR-wise in that respect.

    Someone above said he’d be good for the Pats, and I think the Pats organizationally would deff be a good fit for him beyond just on-field stuff. And even though in some ways being a gay athlete in such a macho sport *shouldn’t* matter, it does matter to anyone out there that still fears that being gay could inhibit their life goals. Also, hopefully he can produce on the field so that we deal head-on with him being out in a sport, as opposed to someone like Jason Collins who was easy to dismiss like, “but he’s a bum player tho”.

  9. For a pass rusher he lacks a quick first step, I think b/c he is undersized he belong more with a 3-4 team as a LB. Also need a strong coach that doesn't let the media put up with him. Pats make the most sense. The hoodie doesn't let anything stop him from winning games and he knows how to put people in spots to make them look good. He probably is looking Off weapons early. So the later rounds I expect him to go defense. But he already took several edge players like Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins.
    He fits the jets scheme but they have a good front seven now and after tebow they can't have another circus, He doesn't fit my giants, but my locker room is strong and smart (Tuck, Manning, Rolle) so he is welcome.

  10. The man appears to be a mid round draft pick (round 3-5 or so)….if he drops lower than where he is "suppose" to go it will be due to a similar reason why any other person would drop…there's a similar player with same attributes and measurables….but with "less distractions". Any GM, with all other things being equal, will usually take the "less headache" route…as with most people in many aspects of life. There will be a point where Sam is just the best player at his position available by a mile left in the draft and then he'll get picked is my guess.

    If he was a top draft prospect, however, this wouldn't even be a question. The more talent one has the more outside "distractions" get overlooked.

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