Defensive end Michael Sam was celebrating recently after being drafted to the St. Louis Rams. The 24-year-old Texan was selected to play for the Rams in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft with the 249th overall pick and was understandably elated. So elated was Sam, in fact, that he leaned over and kissed his boyfriend live on camera, much to the joy of journalists and ire of Southern Baptist commentators.
Sam had previously revealed his sexual preference after completing his college football career. If he plays in the league, he will be the first NFL player to have come out in public. The revelations had not eluded the hawk-eyed producers at the Oprah Winfrey Network who, prior to the NFL Draft on May 8, approached Sam to make his own reality TV show. Sam accepted the offer initially, but it has now been revealed that he has put the show on hold in favor of concentrating on football.
ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown reporter Chris Mortensen was one of the first to tweet his contentment with the decision. He tweeted on May 16:
“Good work by Michael Sam’s reps –OWN has announced that documentary plans are now postponed. On Hold. [sic]”
Mortensen is not the only one who will be pleased with Sam’s decision. It was reported that the St. Louis Rams would not have granted filming access or have had any involvement with the project, largely thanks to Sam’s decision not to inform them of the plans until after the draft.
Despite OWN’s reputation as a network, Sam’s decision to concentrate on his career is a good one because he does not need the additional media hysteria. Defensive ends are notorious for being picked last, with 23 of last year’s 33 selected in the final four rounds. Sam, however, may have been left until last as a result of teams being cautious about the aforementioned hysteria.
Sam would be well advised now to avoid making the reality show altogether. He has the potential for a long and prosperous career ahead of him, and no reality show will serve to highlight his profile more than his own personal decisions have done. The bravest move that Sam could have made was to be open about his sexuality – kissing his boyfriend live on air was an added bonus as far as silencing his critics was concerned.
He will already go down in history as the first NFL player brave enough to speak openly about his private life like this, and he doesn’t need a reality show to reaffirm that.