By Arturo R. García
After getting scooped by Sports Illustrated when Jason Collins announced he was gay last year, ESPN maneuvered itself into being perhaps the most visible outlet for Missouri University star Michael Sam’s own public coming-out over the weekend. But even if the network appears to be going all-in with the story, there’s some interesting pockets of silence around him thus far.
For starters, it should be noted that the announcement was not made on the network’s flagship football show, NFL Countdown. Instead, ESPN’s critically-lauded newsmagazine, Outside The Lines, broke the story along with the New York Times and Outsports. OTL specializes in big-picture, human interest stories (it recently reported [trigger warning] on the university’s apparent mishandling of a swimmer’s mental health and sexual assault) and Chris Connolly did ably cover at least some of the immediate questions surrounding the road ahead for Sam.
But it’s been nearly two days since Sam’s announcement, and we haven’t heard from Countdown host Chris Berman or his lieutenant of sorts, senior analyst Tom Jackson. The only member of the Countdown cast who has been featured in ESPN’s coverage as of Tuesday evening is correspondent Chris Mortensen.
Meanwhile, SI reported that Sam’s announcement is already cause for concern among league administrators.
“I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet,” said an NFL player personnel assistant. “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’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”
All the NFL personnel members interviewed believed that Sam’s announcement will cause him to drop in the draft. He was projected between the third and seventh rounds prior to the announcement. The question is: How far will he fall?
“I just know with this going on this is going to drop him down,” said a veteran NFL scout. “There’s no question about it. It’s human nature. Do you want to be the team to quote-unquote ‘break that barrier?'”
And the thing is, Sam is as close to an “ideal candidate” for this moment in history as you can ask for: He was co-Defensive Player of the Year in the ultra-competitive Southeastern Conference, for a team that finished in the Top 10 nationally, and was projected to be picked in the third or fourth round of the draft. So for Sam not to get picked would be really suspicious, to say the least.
But what do you think about the Michael Sam story thus far?
[Top Image via Michael Sam Facebook page.]