Openly gay football player Michael Sam might never have been drafted if not for the league crafting a deal with the St. Louis Rams to pick him in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL draft.
Sam won SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 for the Missouri Tigers and was projected as a late-round pick, but on the final draft day it appeared that he would not be selected. Yahoo sports reports that the NFL, fearing negative blow back from LGBT groups, orchestrated a deal with the Rams that if they drafted Sam, they would not have to appear on the scrutinizing summer HBO series, Hard Knocks.
Generally NFL teams loathe the show’s intrusion of cameras and HBO production staff. They consider the coverage a major distraction during crucial pre-season preparation. If no team volunteers to be a part of Hard Knocks, the NFL has the right to choose a team that hasn’t been featured on the show in the last 10 years.
According to 590theFan, the NFL chose the Rams to pick Sam because of the team’s proximity to the University of Missouri’s campus and their faith in head coach Jeff Fisher’s ability to handle the circus that would inevitably surround a team with the first self professed gay player. By picking Sam as the 249th pick of the 256-player draft, the Rams effectively saved the NFL from a huge public relations fiasco.
Two years later, the NFL returns the favor by announcing that the Los Angeles Rams will star in the acclaimed summer series Hard Knocks, but this time around the recently transplanted Rams embrace the intrusion of cameras. Coach Fisher remarked, “This is an exciting time for our franchise. Hard Knocks will be an outstanding way to bring our fans into our training camp and preseason, and give a glimpse of the hard work and dedication of our players, coaches and staff as we prepare for the 2016 season.”
Of course the cameras won’t find former defensive end Michael Sam dragging down the quarterback in scrimmages, because the Rams waived the Texas native after trimming the roster to 53 players in 2014.
Sam tweeted on Wednesday, when apprised of the 2014 agreement between the NFL and the Rams: “I am not surprised at all.”
I’m not surprised at all https://t.co/wGnyFpuIVP
— Michael Sam (@MichaelSamNFL) March 23, 2016
Sam played for awhile on the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad in that same year but was eventually cut. He also made the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League’s roster in the summer of 2015. He abruptly left that team before seeing limited action in a regular-season game. Again, Sam left the Alouettes, this time for good, citing mental health concerns.