I can already tell I’m going to get bashed by some for writing this, and that’s fine, but honestly it needs to be said. I’ve been an avid supporter of Michael Sam and gay rights in general. I understand the historical significance of him being the first openly gay athlete drafted into the NFL, and I actually watched the 7th round of the NFL Draft (something I’ve never done) hoping to see him drafted.
But I believed Michael Sam when he said, following his initial interview where he came out as gay, that from then on he wanted to just be treated as a football player – not a gay football player.
Then he was drafted – which was a great day for gay rights. I get why ESPN had cameras at his house and why it was a big story for a couple of days. While I think there was definitely overkill, I understood why.
Though I wrote an article saying I was sick of hearing about the story, I did so because I wanted to respect Michael Sam’s wishes that we view him as a football player, not a gay football player. So I felt this over saturation of the media coverage about his homosexuality was a slap in the face to what he had asked of people.
But then I heard about a documentary-type reality show he had agreed to do with Oprah’s OWN network. A show that’s now been postponed.
So, let me understand this. Michael Sam tells the world that he wants to only be known as a football player, not a gay football player, yet he agrees to do a reality show following his journey to make the St. Louis Rams?
As what, a 7th round draft pick? Oh, no. That’s right – as the first openly gay football player drafted into the NFL.
Not only that, but the St. Louis Rams didn’t even know about this show when they drafted him, so he put them in an extremely awkward position when it was made public. Apparently he had the deal with OWN for a while, but didn’t want to scare off teams that might draft him.
So here we had Sam, telling people that he wanted to be treated like any other football player, agreeing to a reality show that focused on the fact that he was the first gay football player drafted into the NFL. On top of that, he apparently purposefully hid this agreement to do the show because he didn’t want teams to avoid drafting him if they knew about it.
I’m sorry, but none of this sits well with me. To me, he’s a hypocrite. He’s standing there telling people he just wants to be treated like every other football player, but he thought having a camera crew following him around during training camp to “tell his story” made him like every other football player?
He’s a 7th round pick. You know what “normal” 7th round picks do? They fight like hell to make the team, hoping for at least a practice squad invitation if they don’t make it. They’re certainly not starring in reality shows about their journey.
To me what he’s trying to do is profit from the fact that he’s the NFL’s first gay athlete while acting like he doesn’t want to be treated any differently. Well, if that were true, he wouldn’t have ever agreed to do a reality show which was only “postponed” because the Rams were taken aback when they found out about it (and rightfully so). Even the NFL is claiming they didn’t know about the deal he struck with OWN until the days after the draft when it was made public.
He needs to make a decision on what he wants. If he wants to be known as the first openly gay athlete in the NFL, then own that. I have no problem with it. But don’t tell people you want to be treated as just another football player instead of a “gay football player,” then agree to do things which clearly differentiate yourself from every other player in the NFL because you’re gay.
I still wish the best for Michael Sam and I hope that he’s given a fair chance to make the team. No matter what happens with his career, he’s clearly opened the door for other athletes to come out and be proud of who they are.
But I’m absolutely disappointed that he had ever agreed to do this reality show in the first place. A reality show which he was only offered because he’s gay – all while telling everyone that would listen that he didn’t want to be treated any differently because of his sexual orientation.
In my opinion, that just makes him a hypocrite.
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