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Pay to Play: NFL Charges Michael Sam, Vince Young $400 to Participate at New Veterans Combine

The first openly-gay player drafted into the NFL will perform at the NFL’s first veteran combine. But unlike Michael Sam’s profitable gig on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, the NFL’s made-for-television event will be a pay-to-play affair.

The NFL’s application for the event reads:

A limited number of spaces are available for the NFL Veteran Combine. Review of applications and selection of participants is at the sole discretion of the National Football League. Athletes selected will be required to undergo and pass a physical examination prior to being permitted to participate. Participation is voluntary and at the risk of the participants. All participants will be required to sign liability waivers prior to participation, and pay the participation fee of $400. The NFL will notify applicants by the end of February.

Sam will join Vince Young, who last year accepted a job in the University of Texas’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, and about 100 other veterans looking for a second chance in the NFL.

The former Sports Illustrated cover boy will showcase his speed, strength, jumping ability, and agility at the March 22 event in Tempe, Arizona. Sam performed terribly at the rookie combine last year by running a 4.9 forty, bench pressing 225 pounds 17 times, and a 25.5-inch vertical leap.

Now a $10-billion-dollar-a-year business wants the cut player to cut them a check so that he can once again advertise to the league’s 32 teams that he’s slow, weak, and not very explosive. This event surely works for the ratings at an NFL Network that searches in vain for a raison d’etre for six months of the year. It doesn’t really work for Michael Sam, clearly a football player and clearly not a workout warrior.

The University of Missouri product’s draft stock dropped as a result of the rookie combine, with the St. Louis Rams selecting him in the seventh round. Though Sam did terribly on the off-the-field measurables, he played well during the preseason by registering three sacks. But on a stacked St. Louis Rams defensive line, the 260-pound defensive end couldn’t find a spot. The Dallas Cowboys signed Sam to its taxi squad but eventually released the undersized pass rusher.

Despite shrinking his wallet and infringing on his time on the dance floor, the new veterans combine clearly appeals to Sam as a way to revive his moribund football career.

“Very excited to be a part of ,” Sam recently tweeted out. “Football remains my unquestioned number 1 priority, however, while I continue to train and stay ready, I am ecstatic to participate in a fun, athletic competition like so many players before me have done. Filming this offseason is very flexible and allows me to be part of the veterans combine 3/22 if accepted or any other workouts. I’m looking forward to getting started with and winning!”

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