IT’S THE MEDIA, STUPID
Tony Dungy had it right all along. The former NFL head coach, now NBC NFL analyst took a lot of heat, was even called homophobic by some, for stating if he were still coaching in the league he would not have drafted Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Dungy’s comment had nothing to do with Sam being the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team, it was a comment on the media, and they lived down to his expectations.
Sam was drafted in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams, which drew more attention from the media than many of the first round selections. Dungy’s point was that if Sam were a first round pick and a can’t miss prospect it might be worth the gamble of dealing with the circus atmosphere that might permeate his camp, but for a seventh round pick who’s NFL credentials are questionable, it might not be worth the potential distractions to the other players.
Dungy’s fears were shown to be well founded when Sam announced plans to show up for the Rams training camp with an Oprah Winfrey production crew in tow to film a documentary about him. The Rams quickly squelched those plans, but the distractions were already underway. ESPN finished it’s own feature piece on Sam with a notation about him showering separately from his teammates, a totally unnecessary addition to the piece that the all sports network was put in a position of having to apologize for.
The Rams made their final training camp cuts over the weekend, trimming down to the season size of 53 roster players. Sam was not among the 53. Additionally, when the Rams yesterday announced their 10 player practice squad, he was also among the missing. “I think he has the skills to fit someplace”, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said in announcing his roster, but it’s likely that, with the Rams, Sam was a victim of the numbers game. The Rams are deep in defensive lineman, particularly at the defensive end position. Still, all of the other 31 teams passed on Sam when his name showed up on waivers.
At least one NFL player thinks he’s being passed over because he is gay, but not because NFL teams are homophobic. Buffalo Bills center Eric Wood points his finger directly at ESPN when he assesses blame for Sams’s current status, saying the network made him a distraction other teams didn’t want to inherit.
Michael Sam probably has the ability to catch on with another team’s practice squad, with an opportunity to play his way onto the 53 man roster, but Tony Dungy’s comment was never about his ability, or his openly gay status, it was never about anything but the media, and Dungy was right. The media did not let him down.
With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.