FanDuel - WFBC

February 09, 2014

Missouri All-American Defensive Lineman Michael Sam Announces He Is Gay: Michael Sam was a first team All American and the SEC defensive player of the year. Sam is projected by some to be a third round pick and would become the first publicly gay NFL player.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia to football at 08:20 PM - 41 comments

Wow. A player as good as Sam is going to make an NFL team and be expected to contribute in a prominent way. It will be extremely interesting to see whether his draft status moves based on his courageous and financially risky decision to come out.

posted by rcade at 08:40 PM on February 09

Wow, brave guy. Good for him and I hope he is a huge success in the NFL. Go Michael Sam, go!

posted by NoMich at 08:46 PM on February 09

I'm glad he's a top tier player, so can't be just swept aside by the NFL. I also long for the day when things like this aren't news...

posted by MeatSaber at 09:02 PM on February 09

This is the game changer for North American pro sports.

This isn't a fringe player who was iffy about making a team the next season, or a player who just retired, or someone buried in a minor league.

I also long for the day when things like this aren't news...

Based on how long it took after Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers to when the last MLB team was to integrate, I'd say we've got about 10-12 years before we get to the "yawn" point.

posted by grum@work at 09:30 PM on February 09

It will be extremely interesting to see whether his draft status moves based on his courageous and financially risky decision to come out.

SI already has a lot of NFL personnel talking (without attribution) about how picking him would "chemically unbalance" a locker room, along with other nuggets that explain why they're without attribution.

This is the game changer for North American pro sports.

Up to a point. The SI quotes show that there was already a willingness to push him down to the lower rounds of the draft, and since it's pre-combine, it gives teams who aren't prepared to draft a player who is gay plenty of time to come up with a plausible sporting justification. If he goes undrafted, then there's also deniability in numbers.

It's a game changer to the extent that we don't know how many gay players were passed over by teams based upon stories from their campus. It's a game changer to the extent that it will put teams on the record (and off the record) regardless.

posted by etagloh at 11:28 PM on February 09

Based on how long it took after Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers to when the last MLB team was to integrate, I'd say we've got about 10-12 years before we get to the "yawn" point.

I don't know about that. I obviously don't have firsthand experience of the racial climate in 1947, but I think we're a lot further down the path of equality at this point with LGBT rights than we were with racial stuff at the time Jackie joined the Dodgers. I mean, that was 7 years before Brown v. Board of Education so there was still a long way to go with integration. We're already up to 20 or so states with legal gay marriage, along with the Feds and the military essentially being equal. I'd give it more like 2-5 years.

posted by LionIndex at 11:41 PM on February 09

I heard a scout talking about how, as an undersized DE, he was probably going to drop to the 3rd to 5th round anyways and how he might have to switch positions. Elvis Dumervil, despite all his college awards, went in the 4th round. That said - Dwight Freeney, who's the same height/weight as Sam, went 11th overall and obviously thrived. JJ Watt isn't the only model for how a DE can dominate in the NFL.

To me, if you're going to include the character/intangibles in your evaluation, a guy who's willing to be honest about who he is despite the fact it might hurt him financially through a drop in the draft has to get some points for that. He was out in the Miz locker room and his teammates seem overwhelmingly supportive (although cue a journalist finding someone who says something other than that.) This is a huge step forward and I hope he succeeds like hell in the NFL.

posted by dfleming at 06:34 AM on February 10

From the SI article:

"I don't think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet," said an NFL player personnel assistant. "In the coming decade or two, it's going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it's still a man's-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It'd chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room."
I've never seen anyone claim before that homophobic slurs are a part of locker room chemistry that must be protected.


I could see Sam going to a team with an experienced head coach who has a history of successfully bringing in players perceived as locker room concerns, like New England, or one with an owner or GM that likes the reputation of taking bold risks, like Dallas.

But I don't think Sam is going to be as big an issue to the players as the unnamed sources in that SI story believe. Gay marriage became an issue a decade ago. Gays are all over pop culture, TV and movies. Actors who come out are getting a lot more whatevers than OMGs. American society is getting past the collective freakout over the fact that gays exist and like to hug 'n kiss 'n stuff. A lot of pro football players are going to rally around their teammate after he's drafted.

posted by rcade at 08:28 AM on February 10

...but at this point in time it's still a man's-man game.

I don't even know where to begin with this. Does he honestly think that a guy will mince and swish his way into the locker room? "Haaay fellath! Wide retheiverth over there, tight endth over here!" Is that what he envisions will happen? Oy. And really, what could be more "manly-man" than NFL-level rough trade defensive ends?

posted by NoMich at 09:19 AM on February 10

Based on how long it took after Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers to when the last MLB team was to integrate, I'd say we've got about 10-12 years before we get to the "yawn" point.

I don't know about that....We're already up to 20 or so states with legal gay marriage, along with the Feds and the military essentially being equal. I'd give it more like 2-5 years.

My reasoning is that like baseball, it'll take that long for the bigots/cowards/confused to be pushed out of control of teams/locker rooms, and for the younger generation of GMs/coaches/scouts/players to gain control.

The general public might (as a majority) go "yawn" about it in 5 years*, but those in control might not be so nonchalant about the whole matter.

*That's assuming this announcement leads to more announcements from pros (and soon-to-be-pros). If there isn't any follow-up, and Sam is the only one for a few years, then it'll still be a big deal when the next player "comes out".

posted by grum@work at 09:55 AM on February 10

For players already in the league who are still trying to decide the when and how of coming out, this is an important moment. Optimally, veteran players who are near a point of decision would come out shortly and welcome Sam to the league. That would have multiple positive effects.

It's such an individual and personal decision that ought not be dictated by external considerations, but the players are public figures, and this issue is going to move forward regardless. It's already at the point where any veteran player coming out now will be seen as following Sam's leadership, which is a bit awkward since he isn't even in the league yet. The longer an individual player waits to join the chorus, the more disadvantageous the perceptions may become, however unfair.

Seems like there are several teams that would be a good destination for Sam. But they'd have to take a bit of an expanded and more thoughtful approach to training camp and the whole rookie culture thing.

Sam's agent ought to take a page from the Elway/Eli playbook and really try to engineer which team ends up rostering Sam. He should go to a team where there's the right kind of leadership among the coaching staff. Which means stay the hell away from Philbin's team for starters.

posted by beaverboard at 11:30 AM on February 10

My reasoning is that like baseball, it'll take that long for the bigots/cowards/confused to be pushed out of control of teams/locker rooms

I don't disagree with the thought process, but I think the timeline will be accelerated by the media culture we have now. In 1947 the majority of Americans didn't have televisions*, much less know a black person. You'd be hard-pressed to have basic cable today and not come across a reality show featuring one or more gay people. While there are plenty of voices of hate readily available in the US, I think those voices are louder than they are common.

My reasoning is that like baseball, it'll take that long for the bigots/cowards/confused to be pushed out of control of teams/locker rooms

My problem with homophobia from a purely logical perspective is this: are you regularly being attacked by women who try to strip your clothes off and sex you? If not, a gay person probably isn't going to do so either. It's always some shaved ape with less-than-stellar hygiene habits who's worried about gays not being able to control themselves.

* Source: my rear end.

posted by yerfatma at 12:39 PM on February 10

It's always some shaved ape with less-than-stellar hygiene habits who's worried about gays not being able to control themselves.

Appropos.

posted by NoMich at 02:28 PM on February 10

I could see Sam going to a team with an experienced head coach who has a history of successfully bringing in players perceived as locker room concerns, like New England, or one with an owner or GM that likes the reputation of taking bold risks, like Dallas.

Robert Kraft has been quoted as saying something to the effect of "If he can come in and help the team win, he can play here". That about sums up the attitude that should prevail, and judging from reaction to the news so far, will prevail. You can bet there will be some teams who avoid Sam like the plague, while offering excuses like their need for a player of his skill set or his potential to fit their defensive scheme. Sam was good enough to be the co-defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference, thus anyone who says his skill set "won't fit" might just be trying to hide from something. If he's truly that good, you should be able to fit your defense to him, rather than the other way around.

are you regularly being attacked by women who try to strip your clothes off and sex you?

yerfatma, is this a quiz? If so, I would love to answer "yes", but sadly it is not so. The truth is "irregularly, and only by women of advanced age".

posted by Howard_T at 03:18 PM on February 10

I can't believe that we're still having this conversation. It's February 2014.

I mean, football doesn't start again until September, right?

posted by owlhouse at 10:21 PM on February 10

Yeah, but all the draft nonsense goes on for the next month and a half. So, player coming out of college with stuff like this is more relevant now than in the Fall.

posted by LionIndex at 11:18 PM on February 10

I mean, football doesn't start again until September, right?

You have to understand the real winner here is American sports media. This is a traditional dead period in US sports: football just ended, hockey and basketball are in their mid-season doldrums and Spring Training hasn't started yet (and after the initial burst of enthusiastic stories from the first week that dies off until April too). All this needs is for Tim Tebow to say something anti-gay and ESPN will EXPLODE WITH COVERAGE!

posted by yerfatma at 09:05 AM on February 11

All this needs is for Tim Tebow to say something anti-gay and ESPN will EXPLODE WITH COVERAGE!

The CBS Sports Radio Minute yesterday briefly covered this, and then the commentator went off on a thing about "If he's a hero, why was Tim Tebow mocked for his" and then I turned the channel so hard my eight-year-old asked if the guy on the radio had said a bad word.

"No, just a stupid thought," I replied.

posted by Etrigan at 09:43 AM on February 11

What fatty said. Remember all the coverage of Manti Te'o around this time last year? How often did you hear his name once the season actually started?

posted by Ufez Jones at 11:26 AM on February 11

I think he should be drafted by whatever team sign Ricky Incogneto. (media members heads explode)

posted by Debo270 at 12:22 PM on February 11

Remember all the coverage of Manti Te'o around this time last year? How often did you hear his name once the season actually started?

Honest to goodness, I don't even remember what team he was drafted by, or if he even played this year.

posted by grum@work at 12:32 PM on February 11

Chargers, and yes. But he wasn't a big part of the defense, such as it was.

posted by Etrigan at 12:41 PM on February 11

And not a word from his girlfriend either.

posted by yerfatma at 12:45 PM on February 11

Actually, yes he was. He went through the growing pains that any rookie player will go through, so he's not a world-beater or anything, and he was injured for a while at the beginning of the season which further delayed his development. However, he's a pretty integral part of the defense now and was getting a lot of praise from the local announcing team towards the end of the season.

I made the point in the thread on this topic on MetaFilter that Te'o playing in San Diego probably had a significant impact on his disappearance from the media's eye - playing for a west coast team in a small media market seemed to really dampen the uproar over everything. If Sam can actually tackle, I'm sure the Chargers would love to provide the same service for him. His projected draft level before coming out aligns pretty closely with where I think we'd want to take a DL or pass rusher if he converts to LB.

posted by LionIndex at 12:48 PM on February 11

But you're right in that I'd call Te'o more "serviceable" than "a big part".

posted by LionIndex at 12:51 PM on February 11

Yeah, Te'o was definitely, like, there. He's a legitimate NFL starter, but he's not the standout on an otherwise crap defense, nor the lynchpin of a great unit. His rookie season didn't do anything to knock the girlfriend mess under the fold on his Wikipedia page.

posted by Etrigan at 01:45 PM on February 11

How many DPOY awards is it going to take to tuck that girlfriend story under the fold? I still can barely believe that story was real.

posted by tron7 at 02:18 PM on February 11

I think he should be drafted by whatever team sign Ricky Incogneto. (media members heads explode)

For the record, Incognito actually tweeted support for Sam, although Richie I think is pretty heavily into "clean up my image" mode to get himself another job so the context is probably important there.

posted by dfleming at 02:55 PM on February 11

How many DPOY awards is it going to take to tuck that girlfriend story under the fold? I still can barely believe that story was real.

Do you remember Kaz Tadano?

Probably not, simply because he disappeared from view in North America and his "gay for pay" scandal background disappeared as well.

posted by grum@work at 04:04 PM on February 11

I can't believe that we're still having this conversation. It's February 2014.

I mean, football doesn't start again until September, right?

Owls--Something tells me that those posters who honestly answered your question may have missed the tongue in cheek nature of the question. (Stupid loss of comedic timing in the written word) Either I'm pickin' up what you're throwin' down, or else I'm picking up something that isn't there.

posted by tahoemoj at 04:36 PM on February 11

Michael Sam's dad isn't taking the news well. He told the New York Times that his son revealed he was gay in a text last week while dad was eating at Denny's. "I couldn't eat no more, so I went to Applebee's to have drinks," Sam Sr. said. "I don't want my grandkids raised in that kind of environment."

posted by rcade at 09:48 PM on February 11

There is a little bit of a disconnect between those words by Sam Sr. and these words from Michael Sam at the end of that article, "I told my mom and dad last week, and they just pretty much said, 'We knew and we love you and support you,'" he said. "I'm their baby boy. I'm the first to go to college. I'm the first to graduate college. Something like this is just another milestone."

posted by bender at 11:05 PM on February 11

I suspect Sam Sr. didn't tell Michael about how much he had to control his visceral reaction before he said he was okay with it.

posted by Etrigan at 07:43 AM on February 12

Even as he's saying a gay player being in the NFL bothers him, Sam Sr. says he hopes his son will play in the NFL. He isn't helping that cause by making personal family drama public.

posted by rcade at 08:15 AM on February 12

Sam Sr. needs to refresh his browser. He's a black man being served in a Denny's. 10 or 15 years ago, he might not have even considered walking in the front door of the place. He's living proof that the world of the Grand Slam Breakfast has willingly become a lot more diverse and inclusive since the court actions were taken. He ought to recognize that increment of progress for what it is and pay the vibe forward toward the environments his son finds himself traveling in.

posted by beaverboard at 09:00 AM on February 12

If the player in question were a guy like Jack Tatum, he would dub himself Son of Sam.

posted by beaverboard at 09:04 AM on February 12

Comments from two Seahawks: (Does the "light-hearted" comment mean that Sam would be expected to suck up some homophobia, or laugh it off somehow?).

On how it would play out if they play on the same team as Michael Sam: Michael Robinson: "Honestly for me, it's really about what the guy does on the field. If he can help this football team win and he can be a force, that's my teammate. I'm really not concerned with what he does off the field or what he does in his personal life. Now, we may not be at the same bars together, but at the same time if he's a baller, he's my teammate. I'm with him."

Michael Bennett: "I agree. The guy is an explosive playerIf anything, it has to be about his skill level and not about his sexual preference. The guy is a good player and he should get his shot."

On how Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman being deaf played out in the locker room: Robinson: "I have so much respect for DC and how he goes about his business. But DC, he's deaf a little bit and he makes light of it; we crack jokes, we go back and forth, and I think it got to the point where it's not even an issue anymore. It's going to depend on how [Michael Sam] comes into the locker room and how he sees himself. If he comes in confident and it's light-hearted, he'll be fine."

On Michael Sam: Bennett: "The team that he has to go to has to be built with strong leaders. If it doesn't have strong leaders, this kind of stuff can tear a team apart. But I believe there are a lot of good people in the NFL that understand that times are changing and people are different. I hope that everybody accepts him."

posted by rumple at 07:08 PM on February 12

Owls--Something tells me that those posters who honestly answered your question may have missed the tongue in cheek nature of the question. (Stupid loss of comedic timing in the written word) Either I'm pickin' up what you're throwin' down, or else I'm picking up something that isn't there.

I'm glad someone's on the same wavelength, tahoemoj! But I guess I do still need to work on my timing.

posted by owlhouse at 10:02 PM on February 12

"I'm really not concerned with what he does off the field or what he does in his personal life."-Michael Robinson

If only everyone else held that same opinion the world will be a much better place.

posted by steelergirl at 11:32 AM on February 13

I'm glad someone's on the same wavelength, tahoemoj

Did you forget to take your lithium, too?

posted by tahoemoj at 06:55 PM on February 13

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