Former NFL player Michael Sam was likely the worst example that gay NFL prospects could have had, but at least one NFL executive seems to think that Sam’s short-lived NFL career has served to block other gay players from entering the field.
For SportingNews.com, writer Alex Marvez wrings his hands over the fact that the NFL hasn’t fielded an openly gay player since Michael Sam’s career went down in flames.
Marvez laments, “according to a former team executive, that day may not be coming anytime soon based upon what happened with Michael Sam.”
The writer found a former NFL executive to shore up his worries that gays are still on the outside looking in when ex-Cleveland Browns CEO Joe Banner said of Sam’s experience in a recent interview, “Unfortunately, I think the answer probably is they’re a little more hesitant.”
But, even as Marvez and even Banner seem to have decided that Sam’s homosexuality was a detriment to his career, Banner himself admits that Sam’s problem was his lack of expertise as a football player, not his sexuality, when he noted that Sam was already out of consideration for the Browns “for football reasons” long before he outed himself as gay.
In other words, before the player announced he was gay the Cleveland Browns had already taken a pass on Sam simply because he can’t play football. It had zero to do with his being gay.
Still, as it seems that some are claiming that the fact that Sam made a huge splash about being gay, yet still flamed out after only one season is because he was gay, as opposed to because he just isn’t a very good player.
Indeed, Marvez found the co-founder of a gay sports website who insists that the only reason Sam never made it in the NFL is “because he is gay.”
“Let’s be clear — the Cowboys didn’t give him a chance,” Outsports.com co-founder Cyd Zeigler said. “The Cowboys did the NFL and other teams a big favor by bringing him in. Michael never even met (head coach) Jason Garrett until the day he was cut. That was all window dressing. Frankly, I think the Rams drafting him was probably a bunch of window dressing too…”
Marvez notes that Zeigler added that “we’d be having a very different story about his acceptance in the NFL” if Sam wouldn’t have announced his sexuality until first making a 53-man roster.
Zeigler also complained that the players aren’t concerned about a gay player. It’s the NFL’s front office executives that are reticent, he said.
“It’s not an issue of the athletes,” the gay activist insisted. “Unfortunately, a lot of front offices and executives say athletes aren’t ready. That’s a bunch of bull. The athletes are ready. It’s the white guys in suits who aren’t ready.”
But, how does this square with the fact that Banner admitted that Sam was off their list of prospects before he even came out publicly that he was gay simply because he wasn’t up to the level of an NFL player? Further more, how does it square with the rumors that the Dallas Cowboys put him on the practice squad at the behest of an NFL desperate to make it look like the league was open to gays and not punishing Sam because of his sexuality?
After the Rams released Sam in 2014 after such a short time on the team, league officials began calling around to various teams desperately trying to get one of them to bring the player on so as to avoid charges that they fired the first openly gay player.
So, far from acting as if a gay player was an albatross, the league and several teams embraced Sam’s sexuality and kept giving him chances because he was gay, despite that he just wasn’t a good player.
Looking at the facts sure makes it seem that Sam’s homosexuality had nothing to do with his short tenure in the NFL and it is curious why anyone (other than a gay activist) would imagine that Sam’s experience has become an impediment to other gay players joining the league.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.