Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Under Further Review: Michael Sam Steals the Show

"I'm not afraid to tell the world who I am. I'm Michael Sam: I'm a college graduate. I'm African American, and I'm gay." - Michael Sam

While the media was still trying to wrap their minds around the situation with Marcus Smart and those who were tired of the near-24 hours of coverage were taking in some action from Sochi, something happened. Changed happened. Former University of Missouri All-American defensive lineman and National Football League hopeful Michael Sam did something that no NFL prospect had ever done. He announced he is gay.

It was an unprecedented move in the sport, and we saw some of the reactions reflect as so, most of the reaction was incredibly positive. Praise rained down on Sam's courage and leadership into the uncharted waters. There have been gay NFL players in the past (and surely there are now as well), but they have all waited until post-retirement to say anything publicly. Sure, Sam has not been drafted, similar to when NBA player Jason Collins was a free agent when he made his announcement, but same is a talented player. Double-digit sacks. SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Yes, that SEC. He's projected to go as high as the third round, and he still has the combine and his pro day to prove himself further.

When ESPN and the New York Times published stories on Sunday night, the majority of the coverage was overwhelmingly positive. There were questions, sure, because people like to speculate. Kind of like, "OK great for him, that's awesome, but how does this accept his draft stock?" The players are ready, but how will the NFL "establishment" - the decision makers - ultimately decide? Is there anything in the world that doesn't revolve around the NFL Draft?

Sports Illustrated rained on the parade with a piece citing eight NFL executives doubting that the NFL was ready. Of course, the executives remained anonymous. Others started to look at the potential position change he would have to undergo from defensive line to linebacker as a potential reason to not draft him. It started to take the mold of what happened with Collins, when people changed the narrative to him being a journeyman forward who didn't really contribute much anymore.

I hate NFL Draft speculation, especially in February. But all it takes is one team to draft Sam and he's in. He doesn't need the unconditional support of every single general manager, owner, and coach in the NFL. Just one.

On Monday, the story changed again. More people spoke, most positively. Teams and owners said they support Sam. The New York Giants' John Mara said, "If you can play, you can play." The Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles issued supportive statements saying that they would absolutely welcome him with open arms. Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots expressed similar thoughts.

Players weighed in too. If Sams college teammates could respect him and treat him solely based on his talent, then so can his future adult teammates in the NFL.  Even Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito tweeted out words of encouragement. Dominique Foxworth, the President of the NFL Players Association who has always been supportive of the idea, further assured his support. Wade Davis wrote in his support to the Monday Morning Quarterback. The You Can Play Project, an LGBT advocacy group that played an integral part in the announcement, showed their continued praise. Heck, Barack Obama tweeted support as well.

Before writing this post, my plan was to write about how any NFL franchise that blames the distraction of the media for not taking a fair look at Sam's ability. However, Donte Stallworth pretty much said everything that could possibly be said on that front. He took a wrecking ball to the whole idea of it.

Sometimes we speculate too much about the little things like draft stock. Do not lose sight on Michael Sam in all of this. His story, even before Sunday's announcement, has been a clinic in how to handle adversity. This is all just another step.

Sam's next step is into the NFL, whether the league is ready or not. There's no speculation or anonymous sources needed for that.

Kevin Rossi is a junior Drexel Sport Management major with minors in Communications and Business Administration. Since joining the SMTSU, Kevin has worked his way up the ladder to President. Currently, Kevin is also the Drexel editor for Kevin recently finished his second co-op with Temple University in their Athletic Communications office. Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_rossi.

Connect with Kevin Rossi on LinkedIn.

No comments:

Post a Comment