BY Steve Rudman 01:22PM 02/10/2014

As GM, would you draft an openly gay player?

If you ran the Seahawks, would you draft an openly gay player such as Michael Sam? Or would you be too worried about upsetting locker-room chemistry? Vote here.

Michael Sam intends to become the first openly gay player to play in the NFL. He starred at the University of Missouri under Gary Pinkel. / Wiki Commons

Two days ago, we knew this much about Michael Sam: As a 260-pound defensive end at the University of Missouri, he won the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award (11.5 sacks) and worked himself into a probable draft pick – perhaps as high as the third round – in the NFL draft in May.  Now, of course, we know a whole lot more about Michael Sam.

Sunday via The New York Times and ESPN, Sam told the world he is gay. He said his coach, Gary Pinkel, the one-time Washington assistant under Don James, and his teammates learned the truth the past summer.

“I’m Michael Sam. I’m a football player and I’m gay,” he told The Times.

Unlike Jason Collins, who declared that he was gay last year within days of wrapping up his 12th NBA season, Sam is not yet a professional. If he sticks with an NFL team, he will become the league’s first openly gay player.

According to eight NFL anonymous executives surveyed by SI.com, Sam’s announcement makes his path into the league considerably more daunting than it was a few days ago. It will, the executives agreed, probably wind up costing him millions of dollars.

The consensus of the eight opinions: Sam’s draft stock, and therefore the dollars he might have earned had he kept his sexual orientation to himself, will drop because clubs will not want to deal with the publicity circus that will inevitably accompany him. Nor will they want to inject Sam into the kind of locker room culture that exists today, although it didn’t seem to hurt the Missouri Tigers, recent winners of the Cotton Bowl.

In fact, Sunday night, when television sets at the Campus Bar & Grill in Columbia, MO., broadcast Sam’s announcement on ESPN, the place, according to SI.com, broke into applause. But that might not be the NFL’s reaction.

“I don’t think football is ready for an openly gay player,” one NFL player personnel assistant told SI.com. “In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a (gay slur) is still so commonplace. It would chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”

None of the executives, who agreed to the interviews on the condition of anonymity, criticized Sam’s sexual preference or his decision to make it public. But they all were unsparing in their comments. Bottom line: Who needs the grief?

“Every Tom, Dick and Harry in the media is going to show up, from Good Housekeeping to The Today Show,” one executive pointed out. “A general manager is going to ask, ‘Why are we doing that to ourselves?’”

Collins, a 35-year-old free agent, hasn’t signed with an NBA team since making his announcement.

“You shouldn’t have to live your life in secrecy,” one assistant coach said. “But do you really want to be the topic of conversation for everything without having played a down in the league?”

The assistant added that the decision to draft Sam – in which round, or if at all — will depend on a team’s level of comfort in possibly disrupting the dynamic of its locker room.

Seahawks fans just witnessed a remarkable convergence of talent and chemistry result in a Super Bowl victory. The locker room dynamic obviously worked.

 

 


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    I’m confident the Hawks would. They have a solid bunch of players here. You won’t find a Richie Incogito or a Aldon Smith here. I’m sure the NFL will contact all teams to get how they feel about Sam and how to handle the situation as well.

  • RadioGuy

    If I’m a personnel director in the NFL, I’m looking at whether Michael Sam can help my team. If I think he can, he’s on my board. His sexuality should not matter because being gay doesn’t make you a better or worse player. Sports are meant to be a meritocracy and the questions should be “Can this guy help our pass rush? Can this 265-pound rookie handle defending the run?” If answers to the football questions are yes, then, yeah, you draft him.

    HOWEVER, because Sam has now become a cause celebre, I’m thinking twice about drafting him because he brings a distraction that has nothing to do with football to all the other players simply trying to make my team and prepare for the coming season. There’s no way you could have a normal, football-centered training camp when what you do is being blared across the media as much as a social statement instead of just trying to find the 45 players who’ll help you win.

    I suspect that if we can somehow survive Manti Te’o and his imaginary girlfriend, we can survive a football player who prefers other men. Good luck to Sam. It takes guts to do what he did, but I don’t think other players will be as much a problem for him as the media will because he will never be left alone to just play football.

  • rosetta_stoned

    It is impossible for me to care any less about a player’s sexual orientation.

  • oldfan

    Of course I’d take him, if he was the right fit for my team’s need.
    30 some years ago, a lesbian friend asked if I would accept a woman as the Seahawks’ middle linebacker. If she was better than who is in there now? Yes.
    Almost 70 years ago the same thing was being asked about a black baseball player. That worked out okay.
    Progress has to start somewhere.

    • RadioGuy

      I’m the same way about women in baseball. Baseball may be the sport most resistant to change, but I could see a female knuckleballer make the grade. You don’t have to be big or strong to throw a knuckler and nobody likes batting against them.

  • WestCoastBias79

    Unfair or not, this puts him in Tim Tebow territory. What that means is that his performance has to justify the circus and therefore distraction that comes with him. This distraction really has nothing to do with his sexual orientation as I think most young people not named Incognito would probably just shrug it off, it’s the distraction the media *will* create. Jackie Robinson was a strong person, but he was there because he was a good baseball player.

  • Mort McSnerd

    Nope.

    Those
    he played with had no choice but to support him. He’s obviously a
    drama queen (pun intentional) and while I don’t care if he nails
    orangutans, the idea that he now seems to believe he should be judged on
    his sexual proclivities as a part of his physical abilities would
    preclude me (and, I believe, most GM’s) from drafting him.

    His
    best bet would have been to get drafted, make a team, and THEN, if he
    needed to, advertise his sex life to the entire planet.

    Now,
    if he doesn’t get drafted or get the contract he wants, he’ll wine and
    snivel about being a homosexual as the reason, when that may have
    nothing to do with it.

    So…. no. Self-centered people are not who the Seahawks need.

    • oldfan

      Let’s take this from the top…
      I’ll ignore the obvious homophobic slurs and let others judge those for themselves.

      His Missouri teammates could have easily leaked it to the presses and church leaders and created a public cry for his removal from the team, they chose not to.

      Because it was known by his college team and many pro scouts means it wasn’t going to stay secret for long. By coming out himself it should be less of a “gotcha” story for the media. No where does Sam claim you have to draft him because he’s gay. You’re allowed to take that as you will. And no one can later claim they were duped when they drafted him. Hardly self-centered attention grabbing.

      It’s interesting, and telling, that you would compare being gay with being accused of murder. If Aaron Hernandez is found innocent you still think he should be treated as a pariah, same as you feel about Michael Sam. (BTW Ray Lewis was involved in a murder scandal and found innocent, the Ravens survived the media scrutiny enough to win two Super Bowls.)

      “Best to get drafted…and THEN…” come out? So it’s best to try and deceive the team, the owner, and the fans? Strange logic there. When Tom Brady or Tony Romo date celebrities no one accuses them of advertising their sexuality, no one thinks twice. But a gay person should skulk around in the shadows, fearing to be recognized? That may unfortunately be true in Uganda, Iran, or Russia, it shouldn’t be true in “the land of the free.”

      Sam is the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, a projected mid-rounder, so yes, if he’s not drafted you could legitimately think his sexuality had something to do with that (barring a hidden injury or some other major factor). When most players are cut, traded, or sat down, the reasons are fairly obvious. If that happens to Sam some will indeed cry foul, same as if he’s promoted over someone’s favorite player they will cite favoritism. That’s the way a free media and free speech work.

      Richard Sherman’s love of speaking out had the media branding him “self-centered.” But he was just being himself. That’s all Michael Sam is doing.

  • Just Passing Through

    Here’s another way to look at it: The question is posed – “As a GM, would you draft an openly gay player?” Now consider the obverse:

    “As a GM, would you cut/fire an openly anti-gay, homophobic, bigoted player?”

    Discuss.

    • RadioGuy

      Good question. I think if it were a situation (similar to what went on with the Dolphins) in which one or more players actively bullied another player because he was gay, the bullies would hit the waiver wire faster than the 2001 quake hit the seismometer. Locker rooms are not tea rooms, but they should not be target ranges either.

      It can be a slippery slope, however, because how does a GM respond to a player who gives an honest opinion that he does not support the “gay lifestyle,” or whichever words he chooses, without violating his right to free speech? Aren’t both sides in a debate (not just this one) entitled to equal First Amendment protections?

  • Jones & Hutchinson

    Would you take Jackie Robinson in ’46?

    At the time, a lot of people developed elaborate rationales for why that wouldn’t work out. The question seems kind of ridiculous now, and this will too.

    Would love to see this guy fall far enough for the Hawks to steal him in a late round, and then embarrass the league with even more stifling defense next year.

  • Catln8ive

    Can you legally not hire someone because he or she is gay? (would be almost impossible to prove I know) If Russell Wilson came out today and said he was gay, and was fired for being gay, could they legally do that? Would there be different standard for professional women’s sports? Isn’t this an acknowledgement that there is a don’t ask, don’t tell policy active in professional sports? Besides, I thought Colin Kaepernick was the NFL’s first openly gay player. He’s not?

  • http://rip-ragged.com/dross Raymond Meyers

    Somebody will draft a player that is good enough to play the game at the pro level and is openly gay. It’s just a matter of time. I wouldn’t do it right now in Seattle because it will be a distraction at a time when when the team is focused on continuing a run and possibly building a dynasty.
    In time, openly gay players will be considered within the bounds of normal. The team that drafts the first openly gay man will be a trailblazer and very brave, but will pay for the distraction from the game.
    Players have come out of the closet after quitting the game. Roosevelt Grier springs to mind, and he was a hell of a player.