Did Michael Sam fall in draft because he’s openly gay?
BY RICK TELANDER Sports Columnist May 12, 2014 10:55PM
FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2014, file photo, Missouri's All-American defensive end Michael Sam claps during the Cotton Bowl trophy presentation at halftime of an NCAA college basketball game between Missouri and Tennessee in Columbia, Mo.
Updated: May 13, 2014 10:04AM
My guess is Michael Sam fell two to four rounds in the draft because he is openly gay.
I know he’s a ‘‘tweener’’ — at 6-2, 261, he’s small for an NFL defensive end, and with ‘‘stiff hips’’ and a bad 4.91 40 time, too immobile for a pass-covering outside linebacker.
Yes, he did run a much better 4.73 40 at his University of Missouri pro day. And he increased his vertical jump 5 inches. And he tipped in 2 pounds heavier at 263 pounds.
But weaknesses and in-between stuff aside, getting drafted in the seventh round as the 249th player selected, well, that’s about as blatant a statement as you could have about him being gay and out.
Maybe Sam is useless. Maybe he’s a first-wave cut.
But this guy was an All-American, the co-defensive player of the year in the SEC, which is the toughest conference in the land, a man who had three three-sack games. He was liked by his teammates, played all-out — and did I mention the triple-triple sack stat? NFL teams covet sacks the way squirrels covet acorns.
Sam almost didn’t get drafted. There were only seven picks after him. The last dude in the draft is called ‘‘Mr. Irrelevant.’’ What if that had been Sam? Problem on so many levels.
So kudos to former Bears safety and St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher for doing what other teams wouldn’t do. Fisher took Sam, he told USA Today, because, ‘‘In the end, we just want to win football games.’’
He added that he hadn’t met with Sam personally, but, ‘‘I feel like I know him already because of all the attention his courage provided.’’
But here’s the deal: Sam passionately and weepily kissed his boyfriend after being chosen, and if you weren’t taken aback a little at the sight of it, you’re not being honest.
You just aren’t.
Such an image has never occurred before in the long annals of the macho NFL. It made one pause. Think. Reflect. Ponder.
It was like seeing a woman swim from Cuba to Key West. Like watching Stephen Hawking write a best-seller. Like observing a black man win the presidency.
None of the NFL players’ private reactions should be shown to the public, in my opinion, but camera crews were at Sam’s draft day place to record him, just as they were there in the building in New York to record Johnny Manziel’s every cough, fake smile and water gulp as team after team passed on the cocky little Heisman Trophy winner.
Life is not a reality show. Unless citizens want it to be. Michael Sam should not want it to be.
The real, and only, question should be: Can he play?
But there’s so much to team sports. You need to be a good teammate. You need to be willing to sacrifice. You need to be willing to learn. You need to put your personal agenda aside and just win, baby.
Sam has not done many interviews. Which is good.
The Rams do not need to start waving the rainbow flag. Nobody needs to change what they do. Except be fair, open and tolerant.
Yet the Rams could be hooking into a large and powerful crowd if it snags the gay and lesbian sports fans, or just all the interested folks, the ones who have made Sam’s Rams jersey the second-best seller among rookies (behind only Manziel’s Browns jersey, but ahead of All-Universe Jadeveon Clowney’s Texans jersey).
The political-correctness police need to calm down, too.
The ones who turned possibly senile (according to Barbara Walters and his wife) Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling into the apotheosis of racism have to crank their jets down about five notches.
It’s crazy that Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones tweeted ‘‘OMG’’ and ‘‘horrible’’ after seeing Sam’s kiss —and then was fined and suspended for it.
What, you can’t even express feelings anymore without the language police nailing you?
Sam should be treated with the respect and dignity all human beings should. He is different, but so are we all.
So you’re in the locker room, in the shower with him. A gay man.
What do you do? What does he do?
You act like humans with decency and pride and respect. All of you.
End of story.