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.

13 thoughts on “Michael Sam: A gutsy announcement, or a brilliant PR move?”

  1. I think he just wanted to get out in front of it. Everything I’ve heard makes him sound like a completely stand-up guy and we already know how massive a competitor he is. He’s a beast and he’ll get drafted and that team will essentially have to make it a non-issue (which may already determine where he may or may not end up).

    Some of his friends, including several on the football team, knew he was gay. As the story goes, one night they were all sharing things that people might not know about themselves, Sam’s turn came around and he told anybody who didn’t know the truth about his sexuality. The team knew through an entire season and kept their mouths shut essentially as if it doesn’t matter.

    Because it doesn’t matter.

    However, I think that’s why he had to announce it now. Otherwise, he gets drafted and then someone else outs him later while he’s a pro football player and he either has to lie outright or the situation is blown even more massively out of proportion than the current one. I don’t envy him for the judgment he’s been getting, but I think he did the right thing both for himself and the sport.

    Frankly, I’d rather have a guy on my team who likes men than a guy who shoots himself in the leg at a nightclub, a racist, a theif, a bully, or a cold-blooded murderer. I like the good guys in football, and for that, I’m pulling for Sam all the way.

  2. There have been a lot of callers to the PF show who have said they would be uncomfortable in the locker room. These callers don’t play in the NFL, but I’m sure somewhere in the NFL there are some homophobes. I also bet there are at least a few gay players in the league already.

    Maybe Don’t ask Don’t tell is the best policy.

    But it really shouldn’t be an issue. If he can play, he can play.

    It really should be a non-issue. But at the other extreme, Tim Tebow and his outward, evangelical faith, bothered some people.

    And I agree with your last paragraph there.

    The gay rights activist bringing up the lawsuit possibility really drew my attention but one of the biggest points I was trying to make is that gay and lesbian people have been part of our pop culture for a long long time, and a football player being gay shouldn’t be a shock or an issue. And as for the lawsuit possibility, if he is not drafted by anybody, I don’t think he has much of a claim. Players get passed up all the time. If someone drafts him, and then cuts him, he could make the case that he was discriminated against. But players get cut all the time. I’d like to see Paul F. get a legal expert on the show to discuss the possibilities.

    1. Maybe PF callers would be uncomfortable with a gay man in their locker room…if they knew he was gay. But money changes everything, and I think more people would be less comfortable with a convicted felon or a teammate who never goes anywhere without a loaded gun, myself included.

      Besides, even the straightest of NFL players get called gay slurs in the worst locker rooms.

      Maybe don’t ask don’t tell is the best policy, but someone was going to tell, even if it wasn’t deliberate or meant to harm him. He got out in front of it. It’s a PR move, but it’s a defensive PR move, which seems like a stroke of genius coming from a guy as talented as Sam is on defense.

      It’s borderline poetic justice.

      Sexuality is the discrimination of this generation. Racism isn’t completely gone, but it defined discrimination decades ago and is essentially a non-issue in pro football. Nobody is getting or losing a job because of their race.

      While nobody should get or lose a job because of their sexuality, it might not always be perceived that way. For example, if Sam is cut, some people will always say it’s because he’s gay. I’d like to think he himself wouldn’t say that unless it actually was that way, and I’d also like to think that wouldn’t happen in the first place. It’s hard to say teammates would have supported Michael Vick’s past extracurricular dog activities, and that’s just one example of hundreds. You don’t have to be part of a teammate’s life to know how to play good football together.

      If he doesn’t get drafted, however, that would be the biggest surprise of all. Simply put, he’s just too talented. The last six players to win the SEC defensive player-of-the-year award have been drafted in the first round (guess how many came from Alabama?) and I don’t think any have gone undrafted in a decade or more.

      That’s also not to say there isn’t a place for him in the NFL that benefits everyone. It may sound like a cliche, but San Francisco might be a perfect fit so let’s start with the 49’ers.

      If you’ve ever been to San Francisco, homophobia is about as popular there as World of Warcraft in the Saban household. It just doesn’t really exist. Gay culture is a part of their culture, only there it’s so blatant and accepted that it defines the culture in a positive way. I could argue maybe that’s what pro football needs from Sam and other gay players, but that’s another article and it may be incidental regardless.

      The Patriots, too, for example. Bill Bellechick doesn’t care if you’re gay. He just doesn’t. The program doesn’t seem to care about anything other than performance. I’m sure there are programs where Sam wouldn’t be as welcome (if at all), but the bottom line is there is a fit for him somewhere that makes the sexuality issue into a non-issue.

      I think what’s really surprising to me is that nobody I’ve noticed in the media is saying that it might be a great result rather than trying to avoid a fire. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say many gay people like watching football (I know a few myself), and perhaps more would follow an active gay icon in the sport, generating revenue, etc.

      That’s all speculative, but what about the same thing happening in the pros as in college? What if a pro team embraces Michael Sam the same way Mizzou did? From what I’ve seen, Sam isn’t a great guy; he’s an exceptional one. Sam isn’t a good player; he’s outstanding. Sam wasn’t just a friend to the players at Mizzou; he was a leader and an award-winner without having an eggagerated ego. Who’s to say he wouldn’t form the same leadership role and bonds in a pro team?

      And what if he does? It’s a great story. Time will tell and we’ll hear more about it a day before and after the draft. But Michael Sam will be drafted and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s picked very early, then we’ll see what happens.

  3. I had a girlfriend once, and she had a lesbian friend. And I kinda always wondered if those two were more than friends. But you know what? That lesbian lady…and she was a nice person…she was the most fun person to watch football with. No joke. She knew WAYYYYY more about football than PF could ever dream about knowing.

    1. Thank you for the link to that article from 2 1/2 months ago.

      In case you’re that far behind the rest of us, let me save you the suspense: Auburn loses the championship game and breaks the SEC’s streak of consecutive wins.

      But then we all knew that was going to happen.

    2. @LMAO

      Thanks for sharing your opinion on a non-story and not on the story you’re writing in that the sports world has been discussing without you. Wow. Too sore.

  4. @LMAO

    Also, for the record, Alabama fans are called “Gumps” by fans of rival teams as an inteded insult because of a character from a critically-acclaimed best-selling book and Academy Award-winning movie called “Forrest Gump” featuring a character who played football for the University of Alabama in the story, not because a guy filed a meaningless complaint against two of the defining characters of SEC broadcasting like you suggested. Just wanted to clear up the origin story there. It’s a good film, Forrest Gump. It’s PG-13 though, so ask permission first just to be safe.

  5. Nobody wants to comment on Chuck Berry? He is from Missouri. St. Louis. You must be playin’ with your own ding-a-ling!

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