College football talk radio host Paul Finebaum, whom ESPN’s SEC Network hired to be the franchise of the upstart all-SEC channel, has always been a Michael Sam supporter who has vouched for his playmaking abilities.
On Monday, though, the voice of the South said he believes Sam went too far on Saturday with his public display of affection on national television after he became the first openly gay player to be drafted on Saturday and felt his gay kiss was orchestrated as part of a broader agenda.
ESPN had a camera on Sam throughout the day, and after Sam was drafted, Sam kissed his partner and then smashed cake on his partner’s face and started kissing him again. Finebaum said that the reaction in the South “to the Sam kiss has been fairly negative, as you would expect.”
In a segment on ESPN’s Outside the Lines with four other sports reporters, Finebaum said the initial kiss did not bother people as much as the “secondary reaction.” Finebaum said “there are a lot of people, particularly in the South,” that felt that “kissing with the cake” was “over the top.”
Terrence Moore, a sports journalist who happens to be African American who has written on sports and society since the 1970s, said Finebaum was “exactly right.” He said Sam’s gay kiss may have pushed people who were “on the fence” on Sam “over the edge” in a negative way.
“This has nothing to do with two men,” Finebaum said. “If this had been Tom Brady and Gisele I would have been just as offended. This was just too much.”
Finebaum said he “appreciated the moment” and has “been a Michael Sam fan for a very long time.” He said it was his personal opinion that “he went too far.” He said he could understand kissing his significant other in public once but “sharing cake and the icing was too much.”
Finebaum felt perhaps Sam was “not mature enough to handle the moment or someone was orchestrating the moment, which bothers me more than the first part.” He said though it “pains me to say that,” his natural reaction was that the kiss had “been scripted to take advantage of that moment” and was “part of some agenda.”
LZ Granderson and Ramona Shelbourne conceded that there is a level of PDA that makes others uncomfortable, but some of the reaction to Sam suggests that people are telling him it is okay to be gay so long as they do not “see it out in public.” Shelbourne said she cried when she saw the kiss because it “felt like an organic moment” that reflected everything Sam had to endure and overcome. Moore said that Sam has to realize that there are people who may not view some gay acts as positively as he may think.
Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones was fined and sent to “educational training” for criticizing Sam’s kiss while former NFL player Derrick Ward said it was “disgusting” to see on national television, irrespective of the sexual orientation of the two participants.