After bated breath during the NFL draft, Michael Sam was picked up by the St. Louis Rams. The 249th player to be picked (out of 256 over three days) made history on Saturday by becoming the first openly gay active player drafted into the league.
Sam announced that he was gay shortly after the Super Bowl XLVIII . The 24-year-old linesman had just completed his senior season with the Missouri Tigers. He won the Cotton Bowl, was a first-team All American, and was among the top pass rushers in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) with 10.5 sacks.
Many wondered if Sam would be drafted after coming out. Over the weekend, some questioned why he was going undrafted for so long as the only one SEC Defensive Player of the Year since 2004, not being taken among the first 33 picks in the draft. There would have been public outcry of bigotry in the NFL if Sam were overlooked in the draft.
But news that Sam was going to the Rams has already been overshadowed by hype over his visibly “emotional” reaction to the news. Sam was being filmed by ESPN at a draft party in San Diego with friends and family. After receiving the phone call from Rams Coach Jeff Fisher, Sam turned to his boyfriend and kissed him.
Some people made it clear Sam’s reaction was not welcome and that he should have restrained himself and reined in his emotions because others—especially children—were watching.
“I’m sorry but that Michael Sam is no bueno for doing that on national TV. I’m fine for it being a new day in age but not for him to do that,” former Super Bowl champion Derrick Ward tweeted.
“Man U got little kids lookin at the draft. I can’t believe ESPN even allowed that to happen,” Ward added.
Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones also expressed his disapproval, tweeting “horrible” and “OMG” in regard to Sam kissing his boyfriend.
But the Dolphins and NLF responded swiftly making it clear that negative comments about Sam’s draft would not be tolerated and his historic moment was not going to be taken away from him. The Dolphins released a statement from Coach Joe Philbin and an apology from Jones, who was fined and suspended from all team activities until he completes educational training for his Twitter comments.
“We met with Don today about respect, discrimination and judgment. These comments are not consistent with the values and standards of our program. We will continue to emphasize and educate our players that these statements will not be tolerated,” Philbin said.
Ole Miss Basketball guard Marshall Henderson decided to chime in by tweeting “Boycotting sportscenter til this michael sam nasty ass shit is off … My brothers are 7 and 11 and saw that!!! #SICKENING.” He later backtracked by stating his comments were part of a psychology study he was doing for a “gay” friend of his, according to a series of his tweets listed at CBSsports.com.
Some people countered the negative tweets about Sam by posting photos of other athletes kissing their wives or girlfriends and tweeting comments like “disgusting” and “Nobody wants to see that.”
For those who are annoyed that they can’t say anything negative about Sam’s kiss without any backlash or being called a homophobe, others suggested that they go join LA Clippers basketball owner Donald Sterling who doesn’t consider himself a racist just because he didn’t want his girlfriend bringing black people to games.
But there have been mostly positive response to Sam’s draft news. “Welcome to the squad @MikeSamFootball #D-LineShowtime,” fellow Rams defensive end Robert Quinn tweeted.
President Barack Obama also congratulated Sam, reports CNN. “The President congratulates Michael Sam, the Rams and the NFL for taking an important step forward today in our Nation’s journey,” the White House said in a statement. “From the playing field to the corporate boardroom, LGBT Americans prove every day that you should be judged by what you do and not who you are.”
However LGTB civil rights groups note that this is just the first step. What’s more important is that Sam is able to actually play in the NFL, not just get drafted. This is yet to be determined.