Michael Sams First Gay Player to be Drafted by NFL
Posted by TannaBk for Jordan Kobritz
History is sometimes made suddenly, as it was on Saturday when the St. Louis Rams drafted Missouri’s Michael Sams with the 249th pick of the NFL draft. Sams became the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team.
Historic though the move was, there should be two caveats attached to it. One, Sams has yet to make the team, and two, even if he does, Sams will not be the first gay player in NFL history. A number of players have come out after their football careers were over and recently, several former NFL players confirmed that they had gay teammates during their playing days, even though the players’ sexuality was never made public.
The bigger issue is that Sams will be little more than a footnote to history unless he is on the Rams’ opening game roster. Accomplishing that will be no small feat. Say what you will about teams shying away from Sams because of his sexuality, there’s a football reason why he lasted until late in the final round of the draft.
Although Sams was the co-defensive player of the year in the SEC, arguably the best football conference in America, success in the college game doesn’t always translate to the next level. Most scouts felt Sams was a “tweener,” a good football player but not good enough to have a fixed position – end or linebacker – in the NFL. During the league combine in February, Sams tested slow, short and light.
That doesn’t mean Sams can’t have a fine NFL career. Not every late round draft pick is just another body whose main purpose is to provide competition in training camp. Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, a lock for the Hall of Fame, was drafted in the sixth round – number 199 overall – of the 2000 draft, and no one ever questioned his sexuality, then or since. In other words, forget the conspiracy theory. For most clubs, drafting Sams – or not – was a football decision, plain and simple.
If Sams can play, and he may have to carve out a niche as a special teams player in order to stick in the NFL, he’ll either make the Rams or another team will pick him up. Sport, at least on the field of play, is arguably the purest example of equal opportunity employment – if you can help a team win, they’ll find a place for you.
That doesn’t mean all NFL teams are prepared to handle the media frenzy that will accompany Sams’ every move, but St. Louis appears to be the perfect landing spot for him. He will be in familiar and supportive territory, having starred at the University of Missouri, two hours from St. Louis. The Rams have a front office and a coaching staff that will support him and treat him like any other player, not like a freak show in a circus. It starts with owner Stan Kroenke, general manager Les Snead and team president Kevin Demoff, none of whom blinked an eye when head coach Jeff Fisher suggested drafting Sams.
Fisher is the perfect coach to shepherd Sams through what will undoubtedly be the most intense scrutiny any NFL aspirant has undergone since Tim Tebow’s failed audition as an NFL quarterback. Fisher is a strong leader, secure in his position. He is a worthy heir apparent to Leo Durocher, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ manager when Jackie Robinson reported to his first Major League spring training camp in 1947. Durocher famously told his players, not all of whom were supportive of General Manger Branch Rickey’s quest to integrate MLB, he didn’t care what color a player was as long as he could help the team win.
Given their strong leadership in the locker room, you can rest assured that the Rams will not emulate the juvenile and pathetic behavior of the Miami Dolphins in the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin escapades.
Not everyone was pleased with the Rams’ decision to draft Sams. Several current and former NFL players took to twitter to voice their displeasure. Fortunately, they’re in the minority. Most players support the bold, progressive and courageous move to draft Sams. The Rams and the NFL should be applauded and supported by everyone inside and outside the sport. We are all witnesses to history.
Jordan Kobritz is a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner. He is a Professor in the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland and maintains the blog: http://sportsbeyondthelines.com Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2014 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed