Michael Sam: A gutsy announcement, or a brilliant PR move?

hunter ford

Michael Sam is news because of SEC ties

Call me cynical, but I have a feeling Michel Sam’s announcement that he is gay was an orchestrated PR move. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Maybe the fact that he is a football player from an SEC school makes it news. But I just don’t really understand the hoopla.

Not too long ago, Jason Collins, a marginal NBA center, came out. There have been gay women in professional tennis for years. Billy Jean king and Martina Navratilova were way ahead of Collins and Sam. What about Renee Richards, who was a man before a sex change, and played pro tennis? Anybody remember that? Now that was news. She was 6’2. There was a debate about whether she should be allowed to play on the women’s circuit.

If you were a man, and then had a sex change, would you get to play from the short tees in golf? Now there is a debate.

Will this guy be worth the risk, or will he be a PR move gone wrong?

Will this guy be worth the risk, or will he be a PR move gone wrong?

Homosexuality in football has been hinted at before in film. There were two minor characters in “North Dallas Forty” who sure seemed of that persuasion. Homosexuals have been in entertainment forever, even if maybe they didn’t scream it out loud. Remember Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly from old game shows? I mean, they didn’t really have to draw you a picture, right? This was in the 1970s.

My point is, Sam’s announcement, in my opinion, is really not very shocking and not all that meaningful in the grand scheme of things.

Still, Sam’s coming out party has been about all that has dominated the airwaves of late, especially on the Paul Finebaum show. Paul has a way of drawing out the best and worst in people when taking on a sensitive topic. This week has been a shining example of this. And yes, there are some interesting sociological and societal issues in play here.

But overall, homosexuality in sports and entertainment has been around a long time, and I don’t think Sam’s statement will go down in history as “I have a dream.”

There was one advocate for gay rights who has already said that he believed Sam could have a discrimination lawsuit against the NFL if he goes undrafted. When I heard that, it made me wonder if this was more of a ploy than a real heartfelt admission.

You have a guy who was a great college player, but is a “tweener” in the NFL. The whole Missouri football team already knows about his homosexuality. It wasn’t exactly the best-kept secret. Nobody has ever come out of the closet as an openly gay football player at a major college university, and now you have the NFL draft coming up. So, you come out as gay, getting a huge dose of publicity all while applying a healthy dose of political pressure to all 32 teams every time you’re passed over.

From where I sit, Sam’s announcement was more about Sam posturing himself for the best shot at making an NFL roster than about peace, love and understanding of gay athletes.

But from where an NFL owner sits, they’re more concerned with Sam being sold out to the colors of their ball club than the colors of the rainbow. Tim Tebow proved what a circus sideshow can do for a locker room. And Tim Tebow isn’t playing football anymore.

If Sam can play, Sam will be drafted. And if he can’t, despite outcry and speculation, he won’t.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.