Michael Sam, the only NFL seventh-round draft choice to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, in a Visa commercial, and within a White House tweet, also boasts his own reality television program.
Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network will broadcast the show. “We are honored that Michael is trusting us with his private journey in this moment that has not only made history but will shape it forever,” Winfrey said in a prepared statement. “I am proud of the focus on authentic storytelling in our new documentary series format. The next real-life story we follow in ‘The Untitled Michael Sam Project’ promises to spark valuable, important discussion on life in America today. Acceptance and illumination start here.”
The discussion sparked in wake of the news, and a TMZ report that Oprah was in the room when Michael Sam reacted to the Rams drafting him, involves the authenticity of the kiss and the cake smearing incident that elicited diverse reactions from viewers. Did Sam partake in the public and provocative display of affection at the behest of the producers of the reality television program?
Even before news of the reality show hit, widespread speculation questioned whether the event had been a staged, made-for-TV moment. “That was well-orchestrated,” the Family Research Council’s Ken Blackwell maintained on CNN of Sam smearing cake on his boyfriend. “That was not a spontaneous expression of joy.” Sam well-wishers held that the moment merely reflected Sam’s happiness at landing with a team. “The moment stood out, however, because it seemed so organic and unaffected,” Mark Purdy wrote at the Contra Costa Times. “That’s really rare in the orchestrated world of event television these days, even in the supposedly ‘spontaneous’ realm of reality television.”
Whether the cake kiss was a manufactured moment or not, its repercussions were very real. The Dolphins suspended safety Don Jones for tweeting “horrible” in response to Sam’s on-screen dramatics. Former Giants running back Derrick Ward says he received death threats for his negative reaction to the cake theatrics.
The director behind the series has previously focused her camera lens on Lindsay Lohan for a reality television series.