I knew this was going to happen.
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.
In typical activist fashion, Michael Sam’s coming out is more about his sexual preference rather than how he performed on the field, which is the opposite what he’d have us all concentrating about.
When Jason Collins came out, it was near what should have been the end of his career. Let’s be real, he was a professional bench-warmer and he may have thought his announcement would have raised his stock, but alas, National Basketball Association teams were only seeking players whom they thought would give them a (heaven forbid) better chance to win.
I’ve been following professional football now since I was a teenager and I can’t remember a team that was more interested in what went on off the field than on. Sam’s revelation is not going to make his team better positioned to win a division. NFL teams are funny as they tend to shy away from players who distract the team from achieving the paid ultimate goal: win a Super Bowl.
What I predicted at home last night was that the liberal-sports-media action line would be is if Michael Sam’s stock dropped because he made his off-the-field sexual preference public, the NFL would be smeared as homophobic and intolerant….
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.
The executives and coaches were granted anonymity by SI.com for their honesty. Their answers were consistently unsparing.
“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.”
As I said, the yearly goal of an NFL team is to win a Super Bowl; not to show their trendy tolerance for what players do off the field. If Michael Sam thinks that should be his headline and is privately trying to drive up his stock by way of a perverted brand of blackmail, it won’t work and he should be careful of what he asks. When having gay players help NFL teams win Super Bowls purely because they are gay, the NFL will be all over them, pardon the pun.
Until then, a player’s sexual preference is an off-the-field distraction teams neither need nor want.
“By rewriting the script for countless young athletes, Michael has demonstrated the leadership that, along with his impressive skills on the field, makes him a natural fit for the NFL,” said GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis. “With acceptance of LGBT people rising across our coasts — in our schools, churches, and workplaces — it’s clear that America is ready for an openly gay football star.”
Should he be signed, will he like being asked how he felt every time he sacked another man? This can get out of hand which is exactly what an NFL team doesn’t want and in the long run, Sam may regret making his personal business public.