By RYAN HENSELER
Earlier this week, former Missouri defensive end and NFL prospect Michael Sam came out as gay, and will likely become the first openly gay NFL player following the draft in April.
Since Sam’s announcement, the news media, especially ESPN, has covered the story non-stop. Articles on Sam have filled the pages of ESPN.com, stories about him have been covered by Sportscenter, and his NFL draft stock has been constantly analyzed.
However, while most media sources have been highly supportive of Sam, the question remains; are they really doing him any favors by constantly featuring the story? Or are they actually hurting the cause of the player that they claim to embrace?
Since Sam has come out, certain NFL executives that wished to remain anonymous have stated that his draft stock will likely fall following the revelation. Some would say that this only reinforces the macho, misogynist stereotype of the NFL.
However, most teams that pass on Sam in the draft will not do so out of hatred or homophobia, but a desire to avoid the media circus that will inevitably follow Sam throughout the season.
NFL teams are well known for trying to avoid “distractions” at all costs. Any type of story that attracts severe media coverage is seen as a threat to the team’s on-field performance.
A recent example that exemplifies this idea is the ongoing saga of former Miami Dolphins players Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. When the story first broke of alleged bullying in the locker room, the team was above .500 and contending for the playoffs.
After the story made national headlines and became a “distraction” to players, the Dolphins lost their last two games to division rivals New York and Buffalo and missed the playoffs.
The point is, networks such as ESPN claim to be fully behind Michael Sam, but constantly adding to the story will only reinforce the idea in executives’ minds that having Sam on their team could potentially cause a distraction in the locker room that could manifest itself on the football field.
If the news media really want to help Michael Sam succeed as a professional, they should limit their coverage of the story and allow him to be seen first and foremost as a very, very good football player with NFL talent who happens to be gay, rather than simply the gay player.