Sports Open Thread: Good for Michael Sam

From the NYTimes (h/t commentor Yatsuno):

Coaches at the University of Missouri divided players into small groups at a preseason football practice last year for a team-building exercise. One by one, players were asked to talk about themselves — where they grew up, why they chose Missouri and what others might not know about them.

As Michael Sam, a defensive lineman, began to speak, he balled up a piece of paper in his hands. “I’m gay,” he said. With that, Mr. Sam set himself on a path to become the first publicly gay player in the National Football League.

“I looked in their eyes, and they just started shaking their heads — like, finally, he came out,” Mr. Sam said Sunday in an interview with The New York Times, the first time he spoke publicly about his sexual orientation.

Mr. Sam, a 6-foot-2, 260-pound senior, went on to a stellar season for Missouri, which finished 12-2 and won the Cotton Bowl. He was named a first-team all-American. He was the defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference, widely considered the top league in college football. Teammates voted him Missouri’s most valuable player….

Mr. Sam, 24, is projected to be chosen in the early rounds of the N.F.L. draft in May, ordinarily an invitation to a prosperous professional career. He said he decided to come out publicly now because he sensed that rumors were circulating.

“I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it,” said Mr. Sam, who also spoke with ESPN on Sunday. “I just want to own my truth.”…

Thanks to commentor Raven for the video. Not gonna pretend I know from football (or any other sport), but it seems like the NFL should be able to find a place for Sams, since the league has hardly hesitated from “problematic” rookies in the past?

ETA: For the experts among us — Any chance of an NFL coach risking a ‘reverse Tebow’ pick for Sam, giving him a chance to demonstrate his skills for the screw-the-haterz publicity? I know there’s probably a lot more ‘good Christian’ homophobes paying the NFL ticket & cable fees, but surely there’s an under-served clatch of progressive fans as well?

ETAA: Smart talk from Marc Tracy, at TNR:

Sam killed it this past season, leading his team to the conference championship game with a conference-leading 11.5 sacks. And his teammates knew. And they—dozens of college kids!—were respectful and discreet enough that we are only learning about this now, because Sam wanted us to. “There are guys in locker rooms that maturity-wise cannot handle it or deal with the thought of that,” one NFL assistant coach told SI. Whichever NFL franchises believe their locker rooms aren’t ready for Sam might want to consider cutting everyone and starting afresh. They could do worse than by drafting this Missouri Tiger—or any Missouri Tiger.






68 replies
  1. 1
    Alison says:

    All the props to him, and I really hope there are at least some NFL teams that aren’t gonna be afraid of pissing off homophobes or whatever the fuck. If the dude was a top prospect before, he still is now, and should be treated no differently.

  2. 2
    max says:

    it seems like the NFL should be able to find a place for Sams, since the league has hardly hesitated from “problematic” rookies in the past?

    What Loomis said.

    max
    [‘We’ll see. Half those management guys likely listen to Rush Limbaugh.’]

  3. 3
    Schlemizel says:

    This will never make a good movie because there was no nice white lady to save him. No bold strong NRA mom to walk into the most dangerous section of town & threaten to kill the worst gangsta of all times. In fact, in the absence of any white person to salvage him I doubt hes actually gay, just misguided.

  4. 4
    Baud says:

    If the military could accept gays three years ago, I think the NFL can survive this also.

  5. 5
    MikeJ says:

    Anybody think the Vikings will get him? Aren’t they the ones that had trouble with just talking about it?

  6. 6
    Schlemizel says:

    @MikeJ: They did have a player come out – AFTER he retired. If the heat built on them I could see them taking him jut as a PR move. But its such a badly managed mess of a team I feel sorry for any player drafted by them.

  7. 7
    Alison says:

    @Baud: YES. Good point. Haters were all OMGZ THE MORALE AND SECURITY WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE BECAUSE OF THE GAYS and yet…nope, nothing happens, everything’s fine. If it can work there, dudes playing a fucking GAME can learn to deal too.

  8. 8
    MikeJ says:

    @Schlemizel: I was thinking of the punter they traded/fired. IIRC, you could make an argument that he cost too much, but they didn’t reach that conclusion until he had spoken out in favor of equality,

  9. 9
    gwangung says:

    Yeah, anybody but the Vikings or the Dolphins.

  10. 10
    Towzer says:

    …Looking forward to the day when this kind of thing no longer merits “Breaking News” headlines or above-the-page alerts from the NYT.

  11. 11
    lamh36 says:

    I know not nothing bout football. I know alot of ya’ll BJ are big football fans, so what I’m wondering, is aside from the prospect of being the first openly gay player, in NFL, what would be an honest assessment of his actually playing ability on the field.

    I ask cause if he’s a phenom, then the prospect of having such a player on the roster may put the cold hard cash facts in from of league owners and they’ll place cash above “morals” as they are always doing anyway

  12. 12
    WaterGirl says:

    An Executive Order by President Obama is all it would take for the NFL to get over the gay cooties thing, right?

  13. 13
    Baud says:

    @lamh36:

    I don’t follow this stuff as closely as others, but the news is saying he’s not a top-round pick. Third or fourth before he came out. Who knows now?

  14. 14
    gwangung says:

    @lamh36: Not blue chip (aka first rounder). Might not be big enough for the line, so could be switched to linebacker.

    Like a lot of players, if he’s put in the right system, he’d be OK.

  15. 15
    Baud says:

    @gwangung:

    so could be switched to linebacker.

    Saints could use a linebacker, particularly if he’s fast enough to go into coverage as well.

  16. 16
    Ronnie Pudding says:

    @Baud:

    He doesn’t sound like a coverage linebacker. More of a 3-4 Edge rusher guy (or a 4-3 End if he can hold up).

  17. 17
    The Dangerman says:

    @lamh36:

    I ask cause if he’s a phenom…

    Not a phenom and I suspect his draft position will take a hit; see Collins, Jason (currently unemployed, though he was an end of the bench player anyway). Not a major hit, but he’ll drop some. Not saying that’s right, just saying that’s my guess as to what happens.

  18. 18
    Schlemizel says:

    @MikeJ: Yeah, thats the PR move I was thinking of – to counter the stories about their dumping Kluwe based on his vocal support of gay rights.

  19. 19
    lamh36 says:

    @Baud: NOLA would be a perfect town for him, we are def the most tolerant city in Louisiana. We’re considered a spot of blue in a sea of red on the map of Louisiana

    And SAINTS fans are very dedicated fans

  20. 20
    Baud says:

    @Ronnie Pudding:

    The Saints are looking to beef up their LBs (O-line is first priority, IMHO), but I think they prefer players with some versatility (at least on offense they do). We’ll see.

  21. 21
    lamh36 says:

    @The Dangerman: oh. well then definite good luck to him.

  22. 22
    MikeJ says:

    @Schlemizel: Kluwe was the guy I was thinking of.

  23. 23
    Baud says:

    @lamh36:

    Absolutely. And it’s always nice to have another good reason to cheer for the team.

    I hope he doesn’t end up in San Fran. Too stereotypical.

  24. 24
    gwangung says:

    @Baud: Seattle’s just as good…and not as stereotypical.

  25. 25
    hitchhiker says:

    What, nobody wants to point out that the Hawks come from a progressive city (our mayor is gay-married) & pride themselves on being a gang of misfits who play like hell?

    He sounds like a perfect fit for us.

  26. 26
    Belafon says:

    @Baud: It may be, but he’ll still have to travel to other cities. Any team will be a start. Pick the hardest hitting defense, put him on it, and send them to Orlando for two games.

  27. 27
    Yatsuno says:

    @gwangung: I’m looking at you Pete Carroll. I’m looking at you good and long and hard. The Seahacks took a chance on an undrafted running back from UCLA who is also deaf. Being gay is barely an issue in Seattle and fuck the Eastside haterz. We have made picks before that no one believed would work. We can do that here and make a shit ton of history.

  28. 28
    Comrade Luke says:

    First, while I’m from Seattle and a ‘Hawks fan, I don’t think we need a linebacker – which is what Sam will likely be in the NFL. If we have a need at his position and he’s the best available, go for it. Otherwise, draft for your needs.

    Second, this is fucked up, and shows how bass-ackwards the thinking is in the NFL: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.c.....?mobile=no

    Read some of those comments from execs. Just pathetic.

  29. 29
    Belafon says:

    @Comrade Luke:

    The news that former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam is gay holds significant social and cultural ramifications. But from a purely football perspective, his decision to come out prior to May’s NFL draft will make his path to the league daunting, eight NFL executives and coaches told SI.com.

    It’s obviously not a football business perspective.

  30. 30
    John Cole says:

    There is no risk in picking him. He’s a monster, not to mention he is precisely the kind of young man any coach would give their left nut to have in a locker room.

    “I just want to own my own truth” is a level of self-reflection, sense of personal dignity and integrity that escapes and surpasses 99% of society. I would do anything to have the steelers pick this guy in the first round and transition him to linebacker, like they have done so many times before with guys with his talent set.

    Not to mention, I need a new jersey.

  31. 31
    GHayduke (formerly lojasmo) says:

    @WaterGirl:

    Yup, bully pulpit.

  32. 32
    lamh36 says:

    @Comrade Luke: ugh, just read that article.

    Freakin’ cowards!

  33. 33
    NotMax says:

    @lamh36

    we are def the most tolerant city in Louisiana.

    See midget, tallest.

    While Mr. Sam should be open to playing on any team, the sniggering if he becomes a Packer might also be taken under consideration.

  34. 34
    lamh36 says:

    @NotMax: How dare you…lol

  35. 35
    Yankee Buzzard says:

    Vince Lombardi’s brother was gay and he protected and supported players and staff he knew to be gay – just as he absolutely rejected any discrimination against black players. Let’s hope the league really does follow the model of St. Vince.
    Fine with me if he becomes a Packer. Although there will be jokes.

  36. 36
    Comrade Luke says:

    @lamh36:

    Good Housekeeping and The Today Show? Really? What a bunch of bigots.

    I’m not positive, but I think ESPN.com has already changed the headline to “An NFL HOPEFUL Comes Out”. Already backtracking.

  37. 37
    lamh36 says:

    @Comrade Luke: it’s complete bullshit. The management pays the big damn dollars to players. If management said, we’re hiring this guy, get over it, then what are the players gonna do…nothing. They will have to deal with it.

    Those cowards in the SI article ain’t even gonna try to do the right damn thing. Fuckin’ cowards.

    ‏@DeionSanders 25s
    Michael Sam isn’t the 1st gay player in the NFL although he is the 1st 2 come out.#realtalk Let’s show him love like a family member. Truth

  38. 38
    Armadillo says:

    He’s a pass rusher, which is a valuable skill always in short supply in the NFL. If he was All-America at other positions (e.g. fullback, punter), he might not get drafted even if he was straight.

    That said, he was a defensive lineman in college, but he’s on the small side for a NFL defensive end, so will likely transition to linebacker. Not everyone can make this transition, and there were some prior Senior Bowl reports saying that he was having trouble playing in space.

    So he probably wasn’t a first round pick even before all this. My guess is that it probably will, unfortunately, hurt his draft stock, either due to homophobia or fear of the media coverage. But I would bet he gets drafted somewhere in the mid-rounds.

    And his success and his team’s success this past year clearly demonstrate that the homophobia is just that. There’s no reason this should affect anything.

    I’m hoping he gets drafted by the Pats, who could use some more pass rush.

  39. 39
    Comrade Luke says:

    @lamh36:

    I’m really hoping that he goes to a team that needs help at that position. I could easily see the Seahawks (or some other team) taking a flyer on him if he drops a lot in the draft, and then, if they cut him, the rest of the league using it as an excuse to say that a gay player can’t make it in the NFL.

    He’s clearly an NFL- caliber player; I hope he gets a chance to prove it.

    @Armadillo: Agreed, on all counts. I’m not a Pats fan, but if they really need help there, that would be a great fit both from an organizational and geographic standpoint.

  40. 40
    lurker dean says:

    don’t remember seeing this posted before, just saw a mention of BJ in the news:
    http://www.latimes.com/busines.....z2ssxFepOf

    a shout out to BJ’s own mister mayhew, congrats.

  41. 41
    lamh36 says:

    @Armadillo: Admittedly, I don’t follow football, but I do have alot of friends and fam who do. And one of them has said on fb, that he has already been dropping in a few of his fantasy rosters just since the announcement

  42. 42
    Armadillo says:

    @Comrade Luke: Thanks much. I happen to be a Pats fan, but I do agree that it would be a good environment. Some of their players have previously made statements saying that they would be accepting of a gay teammate, and Belichick controls the media atmosphere with an iron fist.

  43. 43
    Corner Stone says:

    @lurker dean: Nice. That was a solid call to Richard Mayhew in refutation of that AOL dickhead.
    Nice pickup.

  44. 44
    lamh36 says:

    If you haven’t seen this yet, here is a behind the scenes article detailing the planning and execution of Sam’s public coming out annoucement.

    It shows that it wasn’t taken lightly or flippantly. The kid def struggled and decided to just go with his truth. He and his team don’t appear to be naive about what may happen once he did come out.

    I commend them all on the planning that went into it. Now it’s on the NFL and the GM.

    ‘The eagle has landed’: The exclusive behind-the-scenes story of how NFL prospect Michael Sam came out
    http://www.outsports.com/2014/.....-nfl-draft

  45. 45
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    That SI piece is… interesting. I’ve had a couple of hours to think about it now, and I’m past the point of being disgusted with the stuff that got quoted without attribution. It feels like the air being let out of a balloon filled with small-b bigotry.

    There’s enough time for teams now, pre-combine and well before the draft, to decide whether they’re going to come up with an “football” excuse to pick elsewhere, but also time to gauge how many of their locker-room staff are talking to the press on the sly.

    Two months is enough time to show not only where Sam ought to go in the draft, but also make clear which teams are ready to pick him on both a sporting and organisational basis.

  46. 46
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Ronnie Pudding: I don’t know much about him. Is he really a 3-4 capable D-lineman? The Pack needs some.

    ETA: Having read the thread, I think I would be very pleased to see this guy opposite Clay Matthews as a pass rusher. We need someone who can do that.

  47. 47
    Fuzzy says:

    San Francisco 49ers (my team) should make sure and draft this guy so he can play ball in an area where being gay is not so stigmatized.

  48. 48
    Armadillo says:

    @Yatsuno: @Comrade Luke:

    I’m also not sure that the Seahawks or Saints would be good fits, for different reasons. The Seahawks, unlike the other 31 teams in the league, have a metric ton of pass rushers. At least one is a free agent, but my uninformed impression is that this is not an area of need for them. It’s going to be hard to make their roster in the first place because they’re a very talented team. I also agree with Comrade Luke that if Sam gets cut from his first team, it may be hard for him to pick up with another team, since it may start rumors about why he got cut.

    The Saints might be difficult because Jonathan Vilma, one of their more senior players, was just recently making statements to the media about why gay players would be unwelcome in an NFL locker room. Contrast with statements by the Pats’ Rob Gronkowski.

    Also, the Saints were fourth in the league in sacks, indicating that pass rush may not be on their priority list either. I don’t follow them closely either, so subject to correction.

  49. 49
    gian says:

    @Alison:

    to be fair, when society would flip out (see Wilde, Oscar) if you were gay, it’s not a great leap of logic to think the threat of being outed might make for a security problem. Now if your target was hetero and married and there was an opposite sex seducer generating an affair scandal, I just don’t see the risk difference.

  50. 50
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Armadillo: Like I said, the Packers might well be a good fit. They need another really good pass rusher. If Matthews is the only threat, he can be double teamed and then chipped. Put a credible threat on the other side, one or the other will get in.

  51. 51
    MattR says:

    @Armadillo: I agree that he would not be a priority for the Seahawks, but I could see Pete Carroll make a statement by taking him in the last round rather than letting him go undrafted. You can never have too many young pass rushers. Even if Seattle has depth there now, that might not be the case in two years and if Sam slides that far in the draft, Seattle should be able to keep him on their practice squad for a year or two.

    As a Broncos fan, I think they need to upgrade their pass rush even if Von Miller comes back healthy. I wonder if/how Elway and the other conservatives in the front office will let this affect their grade of Sam, but I also think they have done a good job recently finding talent that fits the team’s scheme so I would give them the benefit of the doubt if they drafted someone else instead.

    NE does seem like a good landing spot as well. If Belichek thinks Sam can play, I don’t see him hesitating to draft him. GB would be pretty good as well. Might be helpful to avoid a big city initially. The media circus in NY if he was with the Jets or Giants would be crazy – though there would also be a ton of positive local support. Obviously SF is another city that would embrace Sam and Harbaugh seems like the kind of coach that only cares about whether or not you can play. Sadly there will be a couple teams that take him off their draft board for ideological reasons and a couple more will do so because he will be “too big of a distraction”, though I doubt any will make that info public.

  52. 52
    gwangung says:

    @MattR: Hm. I can see Carroll taking him as a developmental project, but he’s GOT to be able to cover tight ends and running backs in the Seahawk scheme, and maybe surprise a stray wide receiver with a solid hit every now and then. Not sure his skills fit Seattle….

    NE, GB, Denver, though? Well, I;ll let the local folks figure that out…

  53. 53
    MattR says:

    @gwangung: I honestly don’t know enough about Sam as a prospect to know if he can become an OLB who can play in space. It is always hard for the casual fan to know if a prospect lacks certain skills or if they were just never asked to practice or display them

    EDIT: One other thing I found interesting was that the New Republic article referred to this Broncos message board post from November that speculated that Sam might be gay. Unless the comments have been scrubbed, it looks like nobody actually responded to the gay allegation and instead there was a discussion of various pass rush prospects and the type/size of player that would fit the Denver system.

  54. 54
    Comrade Luke says:

    @MattR:

    I agree that he would not be a priority for the Seahawks, but I could see Pete Carroll make a statement by taking him in the last round rather than letting him go undrafted. You can never have too many young pass rushers. Even if Seattle has depth there now, that might not be the case in two years and if Sam slides that far in the draft, Seattle should be able to keep him on their practice squad for a year or two.

    Now THAT I agree with. And as for Peter King’s tweet:

    One GM told me he doesn’t think Sam will be drafted.

    There’s no way Pete Carroll would let him go undrafted.

    And Peter King then follows up with something I knew was going to happen, but ended up happening so fast I didn’t even have time to publicly predict it:

    That GM: “We don’t think he’s a very good player. The reality is he’s an overrated player in out estimation.”

    SEC Defensive Player of the Year cmes out: instantly overrated.

    The one thing this is showing is how much of a bubble NFL execs (and I assume execs in other sports) are in. I don’t think they realize the backlash they’re going to get if they try to get away with what they’ve normally done, and ignore it.

  55. 55
    karen says:

    I’m sorry that the world of sports are the way they are but I don’t think he’ll be picked by any team. I think he did a brave thing and I give him credit. But sports is so homophobic to begin with and teams will be pressured by their fans and the sponsors will pressure the teams as well because they don’t want controversy. If I’m wrong, I’ll be happy to be wrong.

    That GM: “We don’t think he’s a very good player. The reality is he’s an overrated player in out estimation.”

    Would he be so “overrated” if he was straight? That’s the question.

  56. 56
    Comrade Luke says:

    I just thought of something interesting.

    Seattle may be very progressive and gay-welcoming, but our QB (and coach’s pet) is a very big Christian, and hangs out with a pastor who is an extreme homophobe (Mars Hill – google it). Maybe it wouldn’t be such a slam dunk for him getting drafted here, no matter what.

  57. 57
    gwangung says:

    @MattR: I think he’s on the small size for even a NFL linebacker (6′ 1″, I see). His pass coverage skills would make or break him for Seattle. For another team, he could be purely a pass rusher and special teams players, but I’m not sure he’s athletic enough for the Hawks.

    @Comrade Luke: He’s not over-rated. His heart is almost certainly bigger than his body (or talents). I think a lot of coaches could make use of that.

  58. 58
    Comrade Luke says:

    @karen:

    He was considered a mid-round draft pick, at worst, before this afternoon. Now some GMs are claiming he might not get drafted, and that he’s overrated.

    Doesn’t take much to connect the dots.

  59. 59
    Comrade Luke says:

    @gwangung: He’s not a slam dunk starter, but nobody said he was. Completely undrafted, though? That doesn’t seem legit.

  60. 60
    Comrade Luke says:

    SEC Defensive Players of the Year:

    2003, Chad Lavalais, LSU: 5th round pick
    2004, David Pollack, Georgia: 1st round, 17th overall
    2005, Demeco Ryans, Alabama: 2nd round
    2006: Patrick Willis, Mississippi: 1st round, 11th overall
    2007: Glenn Dorsey, LSU: 1st round, 5th overall
    2008: Eric Berry, Tennessee: 1st round, 5th overall
    2009: Rolando McClain, Alabama: 1st round, 8th overall
    2010: Patrick Peterson, LSU: 1st round, 5th overall
    2011: Morris Claiborne, LSU: 1st round, 6th overall
    2012: Jarvis Jones, Georgia: 1st round, 17th overall
    2013: Michael Sam, Gay. Possibly undrafted and overrated.

  61. 61
    gwangung says:

    @Comrade Luke: Naw, it aint. Middle rounds are made for taking chances. Someone who’s motor’s on like that is draft-worthy, no question.

  62. 62
    MattR says:

    @Comrade Luke: Pittsburgh is another possibility. Sam seems like he could fit as a 3-4 OLB in their scheme and the Rooney’s are progressive owners.

  63. 63
    Armadillo says:

    @MattR: @gwangung:

    If he drops as far as the 7th round, he’s absolutely getting drafted. There is no way someone with his demonstrated pass rush ability drops out of the draft entirely. As Gwangung notes, teams will want to stockpile young talent at that price, and someone will take him to avoid a free-agent bidding war. Tedy Bruschi fell to the 3rd round due to the “tweener” label. Someone will draft Sam. Hopefully the Pats.

    I don’t think he’s undersized. NFL Draft Scout has him listed as 6’2″ 260 which is the same height as Jerry Hughes, Robert Mathis, and Lamarr Woodley, and taller than Dwight Freeney. His Senior Bowl numbers were 6’1 5/8″ and 260, and it looks like he has reasonably long arms, although I don’t know enough about that. While we’re on the topic, Elvis Dumervil is 5’11”.

    I had seen a previous report from the Senior Bowl that he was not too comfortable playing run off the line of scrimmage and had to work on run/pass recognition. So I don’t think him dropping out of the first round is a crime. And hopefully he can get these issues fixed between now and the draft. It’s not an easy transition between DE & LB.

    As I said, I hope the Pats draft him, but in the past, they’ve been fixated on getting taller linebackers at 6’4″ and up, which has been a spectacular failure for them. He might be more likely to go to the Steelers or some other team that doesn’t have a height fixation. My prediction is somebody takes him in rounds 3-5.

    SI’s Peter King is an idiot. Those tweets are perfectly representative of his journalism. There are countless websites dedicated to abusing him, all of which are more informative than he himself is.

    Not sure how to link to a tweet or a re-tweet, but a better one came from Matt Waldman, whose website I linked above, discussing Sam’s performance at the Senior Bowl:

    Says a lot about the NFL when Michael Sam goes on the record as being a gay athlete but NFL general managers want anonymity to talk about it

  64. 64
    Armadillo says:

    I should add this second link from Waldman’s site which indicates that the structure of the Senior Bowl may not be optimal for showcasing the skills of pass rushers such as Sam.

  65. 65
    Armadillo says:

    @Armadillo:

    The reaction from actual, named, NFL players and the NFLPA has been generally positive as well.

    Apologies for the double post above. I tried to delete the first one, and it didn’t go through for some reason.

  66. 66
    WaterGirl says:

    @Comrade Luke: Well, that’s depressing. Yeah, sure, just wait a decade or two. I mean, really, it’s only 20 years, right?

    I hope somebody grabs this guy up and he plays well. That will be a big fuck you to all these coaches who thing their players just couldn’t handle a gay guy in the locker room. What are they, children? They sound like a bunch of big babies to me.

    Living well is the best revenge. Best of luck to you, Michael Sam.

  67. 67
    12th Fan says:

    The Seahawks will take him in the 5th Round. They’ll be laughed at by Mel Kiper on draft day. Carroll will have ‘over-reached’. And in two years he’ll be an All-Pro Outside Linebacker and the city of Seattle will love him.

  68. 68
    Kylroy says:

    @Armadillo: Especially because it would let Belichek use his Bond villain reputation for good.

    “For Internal Distribution Only:

    The Patriots have chosen Michael Sam in the NFL draft. Any personnel with objections, please report to the shark tank immediately. “

Comments are closed.