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February 9, 2014 5:52 PM   Subscribe

Michael Sam blazes a trail. Michael Sam, University of Missouri star football player, Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year and prospective draft pick in this spring's 2014 NFL draft, may become the first publicly gay player in the NFL.

The draft starts on May 8th, 2014 and continues through May 10th. Sam announced his sexuality in a Missouri team meeting last year. The Tigers went on to have an above expectations year, going 12-2 and winning the Cotton Bowl with Sam concluding the best year of his career in his senior season.
posted by roquetuen (115 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Some league reaction (NFL executives and coaches) detailed in the CNNSI article:

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.

In blunt terms, they project a significant drop in Sam's draft stock, a publicity circus and an NFL locker room culture not prepared to deal with an openly gay player. Sam, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, was projected as a mid- to late-round draft pick prior to his announcement.

While none of the executives overtly condemned Sam's decision, their opinions illuminated an NFL culture in which an openly gay player -- from the draft room to the locker room -- faces long odds and a lonely path.

posted by juiceCake at 5:58 PM on February 9


Wonderful! Incredibly courageous and as long as he doesn't play for the Cowboys, I might get his jersey. Here's his twitter account, which I've been joyously watching as the follower count increases.
posted by cashman at 5:59 PM on February 9


Fantastic timing - he's giving the team that drafts him the opportunity to own it.
posted by one_bean at 6:01 PM on February 9


Fantastic timing - he's giving the team that drafts him the opportunity to own it.

Or blow it in front of everyone.
posted by thecjm at 6:03 PM on February 9


Is it possible to come out without Howard Bragman's involvement?
posted by larrybob at 6:05 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


Fantastic timing - he's giving the team that drafts him the opportunity to own it.

I find the fact that he came out before the draft as a very interesting move. When Jason Collins came out as gay in the NBA, he was at the end of his career. Collins wasn't signed to another contract, but it was plausible that he wouldn't have got a contract anyways. Sam is talented, young and a solid 3-5th round pick by most pundits; the ranking system of the draft order will give a clear indication of how well this is really received by the NFL.
posted by roquetuen at 6:07 PM on February 9 [6 favorites]


Finally. I hear people say the first NFL player to pave the way needs to be a star quarterback. I hope it will actually be easier for a two hundred and sixty pound defensive end.
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:09 PM on February 9 [4 favorites]


In blunt terms, they project a significant drop in Sam's draft stock, a publicity circus and an NFL locker room culture not prepared to deal with an openly gay player.

There are certain places that can kind of make a media circus disappear. Anyone know off the top of their head where Manti Te'o plays? When's the last you heard about him aside from actual football stuff? I'd love to be able to take advantage of something like that and get a good player with a low pick again. Don't fail me, cowardly GMs!
posted by LionIndex at 6:09 PM on February 9


I'm still really curious about what's going on with Kerry Rhodes. That story kind of vanished, but the suggestion of it still disturbs me (and the fact that nobody's come forward with a good reason why he's not playing).
posted by selfnoise at 6:11 PM on February 9 [6 favorites]


Anyone know off the top of their head where Manti Te'o plays?

San Diego. I don't think he had a great year or anything, but they did a good job of protecting him from the media and keeping him out of the spotlight.
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:12 PM on February 9


The Tigers went on to have an above expectations year, going 12-2 and winning the Cotton Bowl with Sam concluding the best year of his career in his senior season.

I think this in particular puts lie to the "distraction" argument the NFL is so quick to toss out. It will be very interesting to see if Roger Goodell puts the league's stamp of approval on Sam. The word was that the NFL was prepared to have an out player a year ago, but when teams declined to sign him as a free agent, the player got cold feet.

On preview: It may well have been Kerry Rhodes.
posted by gladly at 6:14 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


Let us hope he went with Valhalla Catering for his draft party.
posted by kafziel at 6:15 PM on February 9 [24 favorites]


It's vital that SI protect the anonymity of their sources in this story.

Otherwise they won't be able to anonymously threaten people.
posted by srboisvert at 6:15 PM on February 9 [14 favorites]


For once, the nattering vapid voices on ESPN Radio that my coworkers insist on listening to might actually contain something I care about. I guess I will see tomorrow. If they don't, then it will be a clear sign of where this kid's career is headed.
posted by hippybear at 6:19 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


It sounds like the staff at Missouri was super supportive and did everything right. They held diversity seminars with the athletes, and it sounds like the coaches made it their mission to deal with any homophobe teammates once he came out to the team. Let's home he can find an NFL team that is just as progressive.
posted by thecjm at 6:21 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


I hope he enjoys much success in his career and the NFL franchise that signs him uses the opportunity to be a positive influence on the rest of the league.
posted by arcticseal at 6:22 PM on February 9


I find the fact that he came out before the draft as a very interesting move.

I gathered reading between the lines of the NY Times article that, out to the general public or not, his draft prospects were probably already being damaged by being as out as he was. Pulling the rug out from under the rumors is probably decent strategy for the draft--he's controlling when the media storm happens and there probably are teams who wouldn't take him with the possibility that the media storm of his coming out or outing would be their problem, but might be more open to taking him now.
posted by hoyland at 6:29 PM on February 9 [8 favorites]


FWIW, the NFL has already issued a statement of support.
posted by stargell at 6:32 PM on February 9 [3 favorites]


Talks cheap. Good on him, and good luck.
posted by sfts2 at 6:38 PM on February 9


Prepare yourself for "Tight End" jokes.
posted by ColdChef at 6:46 PM on February 9


I'm hoping this increases the chances of him ending up on the Ravens, who are pretty savvy with their draft picks and had no problems getting behind a player who was vocally supportive of equal marriage rights.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:48 PM on February 9


I'll be curious to see his combine numbers -- judging by what's available (6'2", 260, 4.74 on the 40) he sounds like he may have potential as a 3-4 OLB.

Compare him to Worilds, for example.
posted by mr. digits at 6:49 PM on February 9


So cool!

It makes sense in a way that it will happen like this, where someone is already out before they come into the league.

I was almost going to say that I hope he doesn't wind up on the 49ers, but it's too early to know whether he'll be a good NFL player or not. So: if he turns out to be mediocre, the 49ers would be fine! Otherwise, please come to play in Seattle.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:01 PM on February 9


Longing for the day society matures to the point that this is not news.
posted by scottymac at 7:01 PM on February 9 [6 favorites]


Longing for the day society matures to the point that this is not news.

You and me both. But at this point in history, it IS news, and while I really don't give a shit about sports, this is important enough that the results of what goes down with this particular person right now actually does matter a lot.

I'm endlessly weary of all the nonsense surrounding sexuality that continue to be parts of our culture. And I recognize that in the great ol' US of A, we are among the most progressive overall. I look at news of what is going in Africa or the utter non-news of what is happening in the -Stan nations, or even "foreign enough to be aghast, white enough to care about it" country of Russia, and I end up just shaking my head and shrugging.

As Andy Humm says regularly on Gay USA, people hate the faggots. It's just this thing I've lived with all my life. While it may not be the kind of thing I deal with directly in my life like it was 20 years ago, personally, it is still happening all over this globe.

If it were to cease or submerge in US professional sports, I'd be pretty happy about that. But I don't truly believe that it will stop in a meaningful way for the gay population of our planet in my lifetime. All evidence points against that.
posted by hippybear at 7:07 PM on February 9 [9 favorites]


It seems like we hear about a gay athlete every week. It's all very well for sporty types, but what about everyone else? Where are the role models for gay artists, authors, chefs? I never hear about any of them coming out. Homophobia will not be defeated until a kid somewhere is unafraid to stand up and say "I'm gay. And I'm a theatre major."
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:13 PM on February 9 [11 favorites]


I feel really...proud? of/for this person and others who have done similar. I don't think anybody in an ideal world would want to be a "trailblazer" in this regard but of course someone has to step up to potentially take those slings and arrows for change to happen.
posted by threeants at 7:15 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


I guess I see being honest in the face of potentially damaging a lucrative career like this as, dare I say?, a form of subversion against contemporary capitalism, which would have us subsume everything about ourselves in the pursuit of "success".
posted by threeants at 7:19 PM on February 9 [6 favorites]


From juiceCake's SI link:
"I don't think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet," said an NFL player personnel assistant. "In the coming decade or two, it's going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it's still a man's-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It'd chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room."
So the NFL is just 10-20 years from being OK with openly gay players? I hope the anonymous personnel assistant is wrong.
posted by birdherder at 7:20 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


What a lovely young man. I mean, I don't even watch football and people like this give me great hope for the future of our country.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:23 PM on February 9


but at this point in time it's still a man's-man game

Wait, I thought the NFL was uncomfortable with gays. Every gay man I know would call themselves a "man's man"...
posted by hippybear at 7:30 PM on February 9 [16 favorites]


Wait, I thought the NFL was uncomfortable with gays. Every gay man I know would call themselves a "man's man"...

Yeah, right? It's like the guy was setting that joke up on a t-ball tee.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:39 PM on February 9 [4 favorites]


To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It'd chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.

"Chemically imbalance?" It seems NFL locker rooms are pretty seriously dysfunctional, and college, high school and middle school locker rooms probably aren't far behind. Maybe this will help start the process of cleaning up the toxic culture so many men are initiated into in this country.

The answer to common place gay slurs is to discourage and punish people from coming out as gay? Really? And America is an "exceptional" country compared to a place like Putin's Russia?
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:40 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


Here's twitter reaction from folks around the NFL - the ones who aren't afraid to speak publicly. You know like the Super Bowl MVP from last week ("There is no room for bigotry in American sports. It takes courage to change the culture.") rather than some player's anonymous PA.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:40 PM on February 9 [4 favorites]


... an NFL locker room culture not prepared to deal with an openly gay player

Strange how his teammates, a bunch of college-aged jocks who would be very easy to stereotype, seemed to be perfectly OK with him. Why can't the pros be -- well, professional?
posted by maudlin at 7:45 PM on February 9 [4 favorites]


which an openly gay player -- from the draft room to the locker room -- faces long odds and a lonely path

Somehow I don't think he'll feel particularly alone.

Strange how his teammates, a bunch of college-aged jocks who would be very easy to stereotype, seemed to be perfectly OK with him.

Not only that, no one leaked it all year. Which tells you that any yapping about "locker room culture" is pure bullshit.
posted by dry white toast at 7:48 PM on February 9 [11 favorites]


His draft status should increase not decrease due to this show of courage and dignity. It's the homophobes who should be worried about their free agent status.
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:49 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


Some reasons his Missouri teammates might have acted appropriately when NFL teams might not:

When Sam told them he was already a leader and an excellent player on the team, he didn't tell them when he was a freshman...maybe it wouldn't have gone as well then; he'll be a rookie in the NFL which is hard enough;

Even the age difference of (average-ish) of 5 or 7 years between the Missouri locker room and an NFL locker room might make a huge difference as the younger people are generally it seems the more this seems normal to--but locker rooms influenced by older veterans in the NFL might be generally less tolerant?

But, I think it bodes very well that his college teammates were presumably accepting.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:55 PM on February 9


Here's a video from ESPN that I think is really interesting. It's Stuart Scott doing a quick piece with draft guru Mel Kiper about Sam. Scott tries a few times to have Kiper opine on what the announcement means, but Kiper's just all about football. And I really have to think that's going to partially portend how this goes for Sam, at least as far as the draft is concerned. Quality pass rushers are in such demand that I think he's going to be drafted exactly where he was had he not made the announcement.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:02 PM on February 9 [6 favorites]


I have a strong suspicion that the old guard - front office desk jockeys, long-tenured position coaches, NFL organizational types, scouts - are going to be floored by the non-event of an openly gay player in a locker room. They've spent years thinking of players as semi-literate neandertals, and of course there's no shortage of meatheads available to reaffirm that view. But anyone who follows the athletes outside the police blotter coverage and general men-behaving-badly stories that bubble up to the popular culture coverage knows perfectly well that athletes aren't that much different then their young adult peers, which is to say, they're way less concerned about sexuality than their parents and grandparents. The guys who are "team leaders" right now are maybe in their late 20s, and it's a safe bet that their circles of friends and families already include at least a few openly LGBT people. They're the ones who will set the tone for the locker room, such that even the throwback gay-hating jocks stereotypes will keep their mouths shut.

I look forward to this story playing out as a big shrug, and thus yet another blow to the "gays will destroy everything beautiful about this country" narrative that certain elements are still pushing with all their might.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 8:05 PM on February 9 [11 favorites]


Let us hope he went with Valhalla Catering for his draft party.

I love you.
posted by gaspode at 8:24 PM on February 9


Seems to me, based on what's been posted here and Kris Kluwe's story, that the problem is less the players and more the coaching staff and front office.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:25 PM on February 9 [14 favorites]


That ESPN video is great.

As a Seahawks fan, my first thought was "Pass rusher? We could use a pass rusher!" what with Michael Bennett entering free agency this summer. Carrol has good success integrating rookies into his defensive scheme, but he's probably too young to replace Bennett.

If they sign Bennett to the multi-year deal he wants, I wonder if that lowers Seattle's incentive to take him.

That said, Wilson/Flynn tells you all you need to know about Carrol's approach to depth.
posted by striatic at 8:26 PM on February 9


I am an NFL fan but never follow the draft and pre season. Until now. I googled for mock drafts and they say Michael Sam is the 9th best defensive end in the draft, end 2nd round to middle 4th round. I am going to pay attention to where he goes, which is something I almost never do.

If he should happen to fall to the bottom of the 5th round I expect the Seattle Seahawks to scoop him up. That is their modus operandi, collecting the tired and poor such as Marshawn Lynch who was cast off from Buffalo because of reasons. If Sam falls out of the 6th round or out of the 7th round and goes undrafted that is 32 NFL GM's who are all craven cowards. This man is the SEC defensive player of the year.

His teammates all knew it in August and they had a great season and nobody complained (about this--undoubtedly they had a thousand other complaints.)

If he can earn a starting spot this story is in the same ballpark as Jackie Robinson. On a normal day I would be bitching about how the Thunder over the Knicks and Durant's 41 points is obviously the most important story. This is not a normal day.
posted by bukvich at 8:38 PM on February 9


M-I-Z!

I'm proud of both Sam and the Tigers for supporting him.
posted by schyler523 at 8:41 PM on February 9 [5 favorites]


I'm hoping this increases the chances of him ending up on the Ravens, who are pretty savvy with their draft picks and had no problems getting behind a player who was vocally supportive of equal marriage rights.

I wonder if the Vikings are considering him to try and respond to some of the bad PR from Kluwe?

I know it seems like these guys should all be scientific about drafting, but the stuff that comes out of interviews with players is sometimes well, insane.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:15 PM on February 9


> M-I-Z!
Z-O-U!

Never performed that little ritual before in my life. Never felt like doing it; I've always thought it was corny boosterism. But today I feel like doing it for the first time, ever, and I do it gladly.

It took Michael Sam to finally make me be publicly proud of my unremarkable state-school education. And I am. Thank you for that Mr Sam.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 9:21 PM on February 9 [5 favorites]


I like:

1. The comments on a local Montana news site are 98%, "Who cares, why is this newsworthy?"

2. The NFL made a statement, and quickly:
“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”

The world is changing.
posted by ITravelMontana at 10:10 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


Was listening to this on ESPN on the long snowy drive home. Every player they talked to or about seemed to think to was a non-thing (see the "If you can play" thing the NHL did, they said exactly the same thing) and the worst thing anyone said out loud was that "some teams" might have issues with it (and strong implication "Their loss") and that "some teams" might see it as a PR headache, meaning that it would just give their team a lot of scrutiny which also fell into a "who cares" general category. They also implied that the timing was because someone else was maybe going to out him before he could just come out on his own.

I'm happy for Sam that he got to do this more or less the way he wanted. Since I know very little about football and heard about this entirely on radio, when I clicked over to the news articles about it I was all "Oh, I didn't know he was black either" He sounds like a great guy and a great football player and I hope this is just the start to a long terrific career.
posted by jessamyn at 10:28 PM on February 9 [5 favorites]


And then there's Herm Edwards, talking head, bringing back the soul-crushing, idiotic commentary angle.

I'm surprised it took this long to get someone to start with this.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:44 PM on February 9


And a great point made in the comments: The way some of these GM's and scouts talk, you'd think some of these teams would refuse going to the Super Bowl seeing all the media "baggage" that goes along with it.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:55 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]


I loved my time at Mizzou, but as recently as 2007 (when I graduated), I'm not sure I would have ever seen this happening there. Hell, I'm a straight white female from suburban St. Louis. The only thing interesting-ish about me was my Jewishness, and the first week of college, someone asked me if I would show them my horns. Greek life is still, from what I understand, a hotbed of intolerance, especially in the agri-frats.

Glad that Mr. Sam felt safe to come out to his friends and teammates, and thrilled to see Tiger Nation lining up behind him. Can't wait to see him play on Sundays!

(Also kind of excited to see what the Antlers have to say in response to the Westboro weirdos...let it rain, boys!)
posted by honeybee413 at 10:57 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


Two notes:

Seems to me, based on what's been posted here and Kris Kluwe's story, that the problem is less the players and more the coaching staff and front office.

Here's a recent Pew poll on support for same sex marriage. The average coach in the NFL was born around 1965, putting them at the cusp between the Gen X (49% support) and Boomers (38% support) - so let's say 43% support or so. The average player in the NFL was born in the late 1980s - people born after 1980 have 70% support for SSM. That 27% difference can be one hell of a culture clash.

The second is that I'm damn sure he'd be welcome in the CFL (and let's face it, a 3rd rounder isn't a lock to start in the NFL, and a smaller but fast pass rusher is a pretty good fit for the CFL game, which has a long history of undersized but quick players). The interesting thing in thinking about this is the Big Book of Black Quarterbacks post recently, where the CFL was a haven for many who didn't play in the NFL for discrimination reasons.

I hope Sam makes the NFL, and has a hell of a career.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:20 PM on February 9 [4 favorites]


This is playing out just like the end of DADT in the U.S. military -- the people on the front lines are largely tolerant and accepting (with a few carefully anonymous throwbacks), while the higher-ups bitch and moan about how they're personally super-tolerant, but the troglodytes it is their honor to command/coach just won't accept that sort of thing, holding up those few anonymous throwbacks as evidence of horrible, horrible things that will ensue for "cohesion" and "morale."

And two years later, there will still be the occasional hiccups, but for the most part, it will be utterly uncontroversial in the face of having to get the job done.
posted by Etrigan at 4:10 AM on February 10 [16 favorites]


This excellent Outsports article details the fact that his orientation was becoming a well-known secret, and suggests, fascinatingly, that the only reason that the media didn't jump all over the rumors in recent weeks was the Dr. V article and the heat that ESPN and Grantland took over it.

It's great to hear so many in the media and so so many athletes express their support and say that this is a non-issue. As I saw numerous places on Twitter, I look forward to the day (and I think it is coming soon) where an athlete's sexual orientation will be non-newsworthy.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:24 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]


if you're interested in the behind the scenes details of how this announcement came to to be, why specific journalists/companies go the story and others didn't, how they rushed to print because someone (maybe multiple someones) were going to scoop it today, and a lovely picture of from a dinner held just a couple days ago, you should read this outsports article.
posted by nadawi at 6:27 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Oh, and from a football perspective, I think he'd be a great fit for the Patriots, who have a history of turning tweener DL/LBs with leadership skills and intense motivation into stars (Bruschi, Vrabel, Ninkovich)
posted by Rock Steady at 6:27 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


(Also kind of excited to see what the Antlers have to say in response to the Westboro weirdos...let it rain, boys!)

Probably some kind of witty homophobic slur.

As for Sam, incredibly brave and smart move. I'd assume it's easier to deal with jerks when their attempted insults are based on "so what?" information versus something one is trying to keep low key and only generally rumored.
posted by Atreides at 7:15 AM on February 10


This is super great. I'm not a huge college football fan, but I did go to Mizzou and I paid attention this year because they had a great season, and this guy is good. I have to believe a struggling NFL team will snap him up regardless of all the rumblings about "locker room culture." The dominoes are really falling in earnest now. I hope active NFL players will take this brave kid's lead.
posted by something something at 7:24 AM on February 10


*slow clap*
posted by Mental Wimp at 7:29 AM on February 10


something something: I have to believe a struggling NFL team will snap him up regardless of all the rumblings about "locker room culture."

For folks who aren't big football fans, here is a primer on how the NFL draft works. There are seven rounds, and Sam is (or at least was) expected to be a second- or third- round pick, so even if this news causes his stock to drop dramatically, he will be drafted. Whether or not he can make it through training camp and preseason and make the team (or a team) is another story. His size and speed put him in a precarious position on this chart. He may not be big enough to make it as a Defensive End, but he probably doesn't have the speed to be a Linebacker. There are players that succeed in that so-called "tweener" size/skill range, but it is going to depend greatly on which team drafts him, the type of defense they run, how well-stocked they are on defense, and whether they have the coaching staff that can properly utilize his strengths. Even if he is cut by the team that drafts him, he can then be signed by any team as a free-agent, and there are enough forward-thinking owners in the league that I would be shocked if one of them doesn't sign him and keep him around for at least part of the season as a show of support.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:46 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


As usual, Ta-Nehisi Coates puts it beautifully:

Sam, unlike his predecessors, has his professional career in front of him and a great deal of money on the line. And I suspect there's something more. When black soldiers joined the Union Army they were not merely confronting prejudice—they were pushing the boundaries of manhood. And when the Night Witches flew over German lines, they were confronting something more—the boundaries of humanity itself. Groups define themselves by what they are and what they are not: Niggers are never men, ladies are never soldiers, and faggots don't play football. When Michael Sam steps on a football field, he likely will not merely be playing for his career but, in some sense, for his people.


And

The question which we so often have been offered—is the NFL ready for a gay player?—is backwards. Powerful interests are rarely "ready" for change, so much as they are assaulted by it. We refer to barriers being "broken" for a reason. The reason is not because great powers generally like to unbar the gates and hold a picnic in the honor of the previously excluded. The NFL has no moral right to be "ready" for a gay player, which is to say it has no right to discriminate against gay men at its leisure which anyone is bound to respect.

A-fucking-men.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:58 AM on February 10 [22 favorites]


I think that he's not a slam dunk as a player will make it harder. Jackie Robinson was a great player. It's the ultimate shut up.

If Sam is just middlin', that's when things will get tough.
posted by Trochanter at 8:07 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]


Trochanter: If Sam is just middlin', that's when things will get tough.

Especially since, based on his size, he could be a very good football player, but not be good enough at the specific things a person his size needs to be good at to stick around in the NFL.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:57 AM on February 10


Michael Sam Shouldn't Have To Do This Alone

This x 1000.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:40 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


hippybear: "Wait, I thought the NFL was uncomfortable with gays. Every gay man I know would call themselves a 'man's man'..."

[to Nelson:] "Oh, man. You kissed a girl? That is so gay!"
posted by msalt at 9:49 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


MCMikeNamara: This x 1000.

Yeah, far be it from me to tell some notional closeted NFL veterans how to deal with their own sexuality, but I really really hope a group of 3-4 established current players will take this opportunity to come out and take some of the heat off this brave kid.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:55 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Also, if a guy named Mike Sam does not end up as a linebacker, that is one sick cosmic joke.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:16 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]


Peter King's Mondday Morning Quarterback column mentions that he might be a good fit on special teams.

King is a pretty even-handed guy. I like his stuff.
posted by Thistledown at 10:22 AM on February 10


From that link:

It could be that a liberal owner and progressive coach like Jeffrey Lurie and Chip Kelly of the Eagles will not care at all, and if he’s there in the fourth or fifth round will grab him.

Yeah, Lurie definitely would not mind. He's a pretty decent owner all around. People in Philly are questioning if he would fit our defensive scheme though and since that scheme was just overhauled there are already a lot of players that don't quite fit. The only way they would draft him if he really did fall into "bargain value, why not?" territory by dropping out of the third like King suggests.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:29 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


I really really hope a group of 3-4 established current players will take this opportunity to come out and take some of the heat off this brave kid.

I think there's a good chance this will happen sometime before the regular seasons starts, but I wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't happen until after they see what happens on draft day.
posted by something something at 10:40 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


I cover the Eagles for a living, and I think football issues might be a problem, but not the sexuality. Chip and Lurie are definitely open minded and always up for a bargain, but I'm not sure Sam works in Philly.

The Birds went all in on a 3-4 defensive scheme (only 3 down linemen on the front line) which requires bigger defensive ends up front to basically hold serve, while fast (and also big) linebackers who can also cover receivers make big plays.

One of Chip's mottoes is "big guys beat up little guys" (I devote a chapter to it in my book), and he emphasizes those raw athletic qualities -- speed, size, jump, wingspan, etc. Sam is just not a good fit and even though many writers say a strong pass rusher is the team's #1 need, I've never seen his name mentioned (as opposed to Anthony Barr, Khalil Mack, & Jeremiah Attaochu, for example.)

Rich Hofmanm had a good analysis today which pointed out that the Eagles have handled much bigger public controversy than this (Michael Vick's dogfighting conviction) and much more divisive locker room issues (the Riley Cooper racial slur thing). So I don't think a little media attention scares anybody there.
posted by msalt at 10:50 AM on February 10 [6 favorites]


jessamyn: "Every player they talked to or about seemed to think to was a non-thing"

I don't know how much weight I would put in those kinds of interviews. The NFL has made their position clear and professional athletes are wizards at following the party line when talking to the press. Not doing so can lead to fines and suspensions for both the player and their team so they get training and practice in dealing with the press and saying the correct things.
posted by Mitheral at 10:55 AM on February 10


Also, if a guy named Mike Sam does not end up as a linebacker, that is one sick cosmic joke.

re: Draft Terminology: The "Sam" "Mike" and "Will" Linebackers

There's a joke here that combines this somewhat obscure football detail with the line from Steel Magnolias about all gay men being named Mark, Rick, or Steve that I have been trying to make since somebody pointed out the "Mike Sam" thing to me last night, guve I've had no success, so I leave the pieces here for others.

(I now also realize that the audience who would find this joke amusing may be limited to just me, which is one of the reasons why I'm giving up.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:58 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


MCMikeNamara: I now also realize that the audience who would find this joke amusing may be limited to just me

I recently made a joke that combined a fairly deep LoTR reference with trenchant commentary on the speech patterns of Dan Dierdorf, so I know that feel.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:41 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]


One of Chip's mottoes is "big guys beat up little guys" (I devote a chapter to it in my book),

Huh, I had no idea that was you. Been meaning to read your book for a while now.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:20 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


I recently made a joke that combined a fairly deep LoTR reference with trenchant commentary on the speech patterns of Dan Dierdorf, so I know that feel.

Was it "Guys, I'm not so sure the Balrog won't be able to not pass here. Gandalf has been playing Cover 2 all day and he's clearly tired!"
posted by lord_wolf at 12:43 PM on February 10


lord_wolf: Was it "Guys, I'm not so sure the Balrog won't be able to not pass here. Gandalf has been playing Cover 2 all day and he's clearly tired!"

Pretty close.

Rock Steady: "Now watch this right here.. I'm not so sure that isn't a Dead Cornerback of Dunharrow who came out of nowhere to deflect that pass." -- Dan Dierdwarf
posted by Rock Steady at 12:46 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


I don't know how much weight I would put in those kinds of interviews. The NFL has made their position clear and professional athletes are wizards at following the party line when talking to the press. Not doing so can lead to fines and suspensions for both the player and their team so they get training and practice in dealing with the press and saying the correct things.

I don't have skin in this game except wanting to see people be able to fully express themselves in whatever career path they choose but it seems like if players are willing to follow the party line and do and say the right things because the larger organization (NFL) basically tells them that they have to, that is a start. As much as we'd like everyone to be fully on board at the get go, that doesn't always happen. Telling folks who have issues with Sam, or any other LBGT players, that those issues are theirs to deal with and not Sam's (locker room moral panic or whatever shows up) will go a long way towards not only promoting but actually creating an environment of tolerance. You can't control what people think but if they are your employees it's okay to tell them that anti-gay speech/actions/whatever will not be tolerated.
posted by jessamyn at 1:16 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


jessamyn: ou can't control what people think but if they are your employees it's okay to tell them that anti-gay speech/actions/whatever will not be tolerated.

I think the concern is that it will only be the "customer-facing" part of the business that is policed, and that the kind of locker room bullshit that went on in the Incognito/Martin will continue behind the scenes. If the texts that were recently released are any guide to what locker room conversations are like, there is a hyooge gap between what players say to the public and what they say amongst themselves.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:25 PM on February 10


Well, pioneers do usually pay a price in abuse, higher scrutiny, etc. In return they get a real chance at lasting fame. I'd wager that Jackie Robinson is a lot better known than any other baseball player who debuted in the 1940s, especially outside of baseball fan circles.

The thing is, he was legitimately great by any standards. The LGBT pathbreaking is being led by relatively marginal players -- Jayson Collins remains 7' tall, but he's also 35, so him not making a roster isn't utterly shocking (though I do think bias is involved. Ditto Kluwe the advocate.) With Kluwe and Collins, it's not crazy to think this might have been a gambit, a high-stakes gamble to extend careers on the edge of ending. I don't have any problem with that but it's not ideal for paving the way to an inclusive future.

Sam's in a bit stronger position but he's arguably overrated -- 9 of his 11.5 sacks came in just 3 games against weak teams, and he faded a bit in the latter half of the season. Jimmy Kempski, an excellent Eagles writer, pegs him as too small for a typical NFL defensive end, and unimpressive both in run defense and in the pass coverage he'd need if he switched to outside linebacker. Kempski pegs him as a 4-3 defense situational rusher (ie only for rushing the QB when you know your opponent has to pass.)

He was projected as a 3-5th round pick, but it's not unusual for some of those guys to go undrafted anyway (we'll know better in 2 weeks after the NFL Combine measurements and timings.) If he's not invited to a training camp then there's some bullshit going on, but if he's invited and doesn't make the final cut, you'd have to know more before concluding bias was involved.
posted by msalt at 2:26 PM on February 10


His combine performance might be significant. If he's faster than expected he can shoot up the draft board and this won't be about Michael Sam the gay football player but about Michael Sam the speedy passrusher. Passrushing is at such a premium that a better than expected combine will make him super attractive to just about any team.

But if he's slower than expected, he'd be expected to slip anyway, since as it's been pointed out, he doesn't have the size to play lots of snaps on the line and if he's slow, he would be viewed as a liability at LB.

But all things being equal, he'd almost certainly be taken in the 6th or 7th rounds, even with a bad combine. Except that you can imagine some teams thinking to themselves, "Well, do we really want a lower-round pick, someone who is not all that likely to make our team anyway (since most lower round picks aren't that likely to), to be the focal point of our whole off-season and pre-season? And what if we cut him? Do we want all the camera crews around?" Which is totally crappy, because Sam shouldn't have to put up with that, but it's not hard to imagine it happening, is it?

If his combine numbers are great, it will be easy for people to draft him and not think a whole lot about the potential distraction, whatever you want to call it. Because talent is talent. But if he's perceived as having less potential than expected, I imagine all of those thoughts will start to creep into the minds of the GMs and coaches making decisions and it might be possible for him to fall. I hope he has a kick-ass combine and just wows people.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:44 PM on February 10


He doesn't seem that much different from Larry English, who was drafted in the first round by the chargers (a dubious pick to be sure), and could have the skill set to be a valuable special teams player and backup linebacker/pass rusher. Great pass rushers with a little more size and speed, like Aldon Smith, are not easy to come by.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:46 PM on February 10


MLB is ready for Michael Sam. All seven executives asked said they would sign an out gay player, and the execs went on the record. Then again, baseball already had a gay player who was out to his teammates and front office--Glen Burke.
posted by gladly at 5:25 PM on February 10


Then again, baseball already had a gay player who was out to his teammates and front office--Glen Burke.

Football has had those as well.
posted by Etrigan at 5:48 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


The knock I hear against Michael Sam is "yeah, SEC defensive player of the year, but their schedule was really easy and he's overrated because of that." (I note with amusement that it was only after the Super Bowl that people started saying the same things about the Greatest Offense That Ever Came Down From The Heavens.) Can someone speak to that, how accurate it is, and whether Sam might be an average, stronger, or weaker "player of the year"?

Also, the stuff I've been reading says that a) this didn't leak in part because everyone and their mom wanted to be the sportswriter to break this story, and Sam thought someone might leak it at the combine if they didn't get the scoop, and b) the league has been preparing for this for a while, with more than one player saying "we were told there'd be an openly gay player this year or next year".
posted by Errant at 8:22 PM on February 10


Donte' Stallworth had an awesome twitter rant today. "If any NFL team can't "handle the media coverage" of drafting Sam, then your team is already a loser on the field..."
posted by colt45 at 9:45 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


There's a joke here that combines this somewhat obscure football detail with the line from Steel Magnolias about all gay men being named Mark, Rick, or Steve that I have been trying to make since somebody pointed out the "Mike Sam" thing to me last night, guve I've had no success, so I leave the pieces here for others.

I love you.
posted by hippybear at 9:52 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


MLB is ready for Michael Sam. All seven executives asked said they would sign an out gay player, and the execs went on the record.

I think that article's overly cheery. I mean, we're talking about baseball, which has a racism row every couple of years. Remember Mike Piazza not getting outed? (God, that was probably ten years ago now. It's possible baseball has moved on, but it's a conservative* sport.) My lack of faith in baseball aside, I don't think this says much about baseball. It's relatively easy for a baseball GM to say "oh sure, we'd draft a player of Sam's profile"** and have that not mean "I'd be happy if one of my players came out"--there's a long way between being drafted and the major leagues. If you're an NFL team and the gay guy you just drafted mid-round never gets on the field or gets cut, people are going to notice. In baseball, straight people will have forgotten the guy exists by the time he makes the majors, if he ever does.

*In the literal sense, not the political one.
**Especially if we assume he's a mid-round pick in baseball, though it's hard to figure out how NFL rounds should map to baseball rounds.

posted by hoyland at 5:25 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]


The cover of the next Sports Illustrated.

America is ready for Michael Sam

Is the NFL ready for Michael Sam?

posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:30 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Stallworth's extremely on-point twitter rant is made hilarisad by the fact that he was one of those unplanned "distractions," when he drove drunk and killed a man in 2009.

(Granted, the guy was jaywalking in the dark. Still.)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:38 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]


Chris Kluwe on meeting with Michael Sam the night before Sam's announcement: "I told him that by and large, the players wouldn’t be a problem. You know, players don’t really care that much about, you know, another player’s sexuality, or skin color, or religion or whatever. ... The opposition’s going to come from ownership, and GMs, and front office people, and coaches. Because they tend to be older white men, with a very specific viewpoint of the world."
posted by scody at 3:15 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


The most recent episode of Slate's Hang Up and Listen podcast had a lot of Michael Sam coverage, including an interview with the guy from Outsports who wrote the behind-the-scenes article. It also featured someone (Mike Pesca I think?) going on a great rant about how people claim NFL Locker Rooms are this unique institution that couldn't possibly handle an out gay player, noting that an SEC College Football Locker Room just handled this out gay player well, and surely and NFL team can handle any situation that an SEC team can.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 3:27 PM on February 11


John Elway : I'd Draft Michael Sam

oh, it's nice to have something specific to feel good about being a Broncos fan again!
posted by scody at 3:53 PM on February 11


Via Reddit: Local Dallas sportscaster Dale Hansen on Michael Sam being openly gay. Really worth a watch, I wish more people like Hansen were involved in sports reporting.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:36 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


The knock I hear against Michael Sam is "yeah, SEC defensive player of the year, but their schedule was really easy and he's overrated because of that." (I note with amusement that it was only after the Super Bowl that people started saying the same things about the Greatest Offense That Ever Came Down From The Heavens.) Can someone speak to that, how accurate it is, and whether Sam might be an average, stronger, or weaker "player of the year"?>

From a purely football standpoint, the bigger knock isn't so much quality of opponent (though, damned if I wasn't happy to hear Florida described as low-quality competition) as that he's a tweener who is too slow to be an ideal linebacker but not strong enough to be an ideal defensive end. It's not all that unusual for a player to be a great college player and not have an ideal pro position--Virginia Tech's Corey Moore leaps to mind as a Nagurski winner (i.e., voted best defensive player in college football) who was only a third-round pick for exactly that concern.
posted by dsfan at 1:57 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


the bigger knock isn't so much quality of opponent

There is talk that his sacks number is inflated in that he got 9 of his 11 in two games against weak opponents. (just parroting that)
posted by Trochanter at 5:32 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


him being a tweener is something i heard discussed pre-coming out. i think there's lots of systems he could fit into if the opportunity arises and he trains up to it, but it's true that he might find the switch from college to pro to be difficult. the inflated sacks thing is something i've personally only seen post-coming out which makes me suspect about its validity.
posted by nadawi at 5:54 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


There is a reason he was talked about as a third-to-fifth-round pick, with the potential to slip if he had a bad combine,, before any of this. The only real shock would be if he went undrafted altogether.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:18 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


i think there's lots of systems he could fit into

Many voices claiming Sam is the type of player Belichick will often go after with mid-rounders. Smart, hard working, versatile, doesn't quite fit the mould, able to contribute on special teams, from a good system...

As a Pats fan, I'd like it. It would do at least something to lift the horrible pall of Hernandez.
posted by Trochanter at 6:31 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Oh hell no life don't you dare do that to me.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:33 PM on February 12


How so?
posted by Trochanter at 6:42 PM on February 12


Good call on special teams. Like a lot of players on the bubble, that will probably decide whether he makes the final cut or not. Being fast and strong but a little small is a good profile for playing on kicks.
posted by msalt at 6:46 PM on February 12


I strongly recommend you watch this. If you want to watch a nail driven into a coffin this is one to watch.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 12:19 AM on February 13


I've just seen the Dale Hansen clip jason_steakums linked to above.
Brilliant, absolutely wonderful. A must-see.
posted by Catch at 3:12 AM on February 13


How so?

If I have to feel ambiguous about hating the Patriots then all joy is dead.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:22 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


We were talking about whether Michael Sam would fit on the Eagles earlier -- my column for FishDuck this week drills into the subject probably far beyond your interest in the subject.
posted by msalt at 10:25 AM on February 14 [3 favorites]


If I have to feel ambiguous about hating the Patriots then all joy is dead.

We'll always have Spygate.
posted by mr. digits at 9:18 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]


And MURDERERS on the team.
posted by msalt at 10:49 AM on February 15


selfnoise: "I'm still really curious about what's going on with Kerry Rhodes. That story kind of vanished, but the suggestion of it still disturbs me (and the fact that nobody's come forward with a good reason why he's not playing)."

Kerry Rhodes Says He's Not Gay, Not Blacklisted
posted by tonycpsu at 6:48 PM on February 18


tonycpsu that link is from september 2013. Maybe you intended to link this espn story?

I am still curious about the details on this. My local team's safety play was terrible this past season and they apparently did not even give his agent a call.
posted by bukvich at 8:29 PM on February 18


Yeah, I did post the wrong link -- meant to post this one, which links to that ESPN story.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:25 PM on February 18


Openly heterosexual running back may prove to be locker room distraction
posted by tonycpsu at 9:35 AM on February 20


Amazingly, that last link is NOT the Onion.
posted by msalt at 4:26 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:31 PM on February 25


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