Michael Sam, who plays football and is also gay, was selected by the St. Louis Rams very late — some say far too late — in the NFL draft over the weekend. The Rams made a statement with the pick and now might face another difficult challenge: how to cut Michael Sam.
Sam, some football experts say, is too small to play in the National Football League. That might account for why he fell so far in the draft. Or he might’ve fallen so far in the draft because he’s gay. If he can’t make the Rams, what would the reaction be when he’s released?
Sean Gregory, writing on Time.com, says Sam has already made his mark, merely by kissing his partner after he got the news of his selection.
See, the idea of a sports moment transcending sports is far from a tired cliché.
But, the responses included “Ok, I don’t want to wake up and turn on sportscenter and watch Michael Sam kiss his boyfriend … eww” and “it’s weird and I don’t want to see that” and “I think I’m going to be sick” and even uglier comments.
So that’s what we know: Sam will both inspire and offend — hopefully, in 2014, the former much, much more than the latter. What we don’t know, now, is even more intriguing: Will Sam fit in with St. Louis? Both on the field and off the field? The locker room is a laboratory, and that’s why athletes like Sam and NBA player Jason Collins coming out is so important.
Now we get to see, in the most macho of settings, if a gay athlete can “fit in.” In Collins’ case, so far, so good. He’s had little impact on the court for the Nets during their playoff run, which isn’t surprising: he’s an aging veteran with limited offensive skills. He hasn’t gotten time in a single playoff game.
Jason Kidd, his former teammate and current coach, is benching Collins based on the merits. And the Nets locker room hasn’t imploded because a gay man joined the team. His presence is almost a nonstory at this point — which, in a way, is the best part of the Collins story. He’s gay, and so what?
The St. Louis Post Dispatch says ESPN’s showing a gay kiss was no big deal to the producers, because they’re younger than the old-timers raising a ruckus about it.
Producer Seth Markman, who oversees NFL draft coverage for ESPN, said that in the extensive preparation for Sam’s possible draft, “we never had one discussion about, ‘What if he’s drafted, his partner’s there and they kiss?’ Honestly, it never came up.”
He suggested a possible generational split over how much it matters.
“When I got home last night and saw the attention (it was receiving), it kind of threw me,” he said. “We’re a young production crew and quite honestly it was just another moment in the years we’ve done this.”
“In the truck, we were only saying, ‘Wow, this is great emotion here.’ No one stepped up and said, ‘Oh, wow, do we really want to be showing this?’”
The Vikings were one of the teams that continually passed on Sam. If he makes the team, Sam’s first game will be against the Vikes.
“Let me tell you something. If we were playing the Vikings right now, I’d probably have three sacks the first game,” he told reporters on Saturday.
Related: Dolphins fine safety Don Jones for Michael Sam comments (Washington Post).
Punter Chris Kluwe lacks an NFL job, but he isn’t finished kicking (Los Angeles Times).