If an NFL team ends up taking Michael Sam in a late draft round – or not at all – don’t blame the media. The Missouri defensive end came out of the closet to near universal media adulation (coincidentally timed with the NFL Combine in February). Now, with the draft looming on May 8, ESPN and ABC are doing their parts to make sure Sam is picked.
ESPN announced May 7 that it’s bestowing Sam with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. The ceremony doesn’t take place until July, but it’s never too early to remind NFL coaching staffs that Sam had the courage to join society’s most trendy and celebrated grievance group.
But the sports and news media alike have a habit of obnoxiously intruding on sports with their political preoccupations. (Here’s looking at you, “Pinky” Costas.)
The Ashe Award was ostensibly the excuse for having Sam on “Good Morning America” May 7. But, covering mostly the same ground as the February media love fest, it was really about confirming that Michael Sam is still a homosexual. “How importantwas it for you to make the statement that you did, that you're a proud, openly gay man, before the draft?” asked proud, openly gay host Robin Roberts. “Was Deion Sanders on point with his statement that all locker rooms, high school and the professional leagues are occupied by players that are afraid to come out?”
Roberts cooed about all the support Sam had from Missouriand closed the hardball interview with this tough question: “What do you want people to know, on the eve of the NFL draft?”
“I'm here to stay,” Sam answered. “I'm not going anywhere.” Except, well, he might. Because the buzz around the NFL draft is that there is no buzz. In fact, he’s “almost a non-entity.”
A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel poll of 21 NFL scouts asked where they would pick Sam. Of the results “Three said fifth round. Three said sixth round. Three said seventh round. Five said they would sign him as a free agent. Seven said they wouldn't sign him as a free agent.”
Bigots! Er, wait. He’s “short and slow,” and “not really a linebacker and not really a defensive end?” According to an NFC team scout, “There’s production, but he's short, he's not a really good athlete and he doesn't play good against the run.”
“It doesn't fit with being SEC defensive player of the year. But that's just kind of what he was,” said the scout.
If Sam does find a spot in the NFL, good for him. And hopefully it will happened without the rancor and hatred heaped on another marginal talent – Tim Tebow – a few years ago. But there are a whole lot of players on the bubble, whose hopes will be crushed or fulfilled in tomorrow’s draft. Bet they wish ESPN and “GMA” were hyping their stories too.