Dear Michael Sam,
Please tell Oprah, “Never mind.”
Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted into the National Football League, has signed a deal with the Oprah Winfrey Network to make a documentary out of his attempt to make the St. Louis Rams this year. In a press release, Winfrey said, “We are honored that Michael is trusting us with his private journey in this moment that has not only made history but will shape it forever.”
Big mistake. Common sense says the moment is so historic that Sam should focus on his craft with the laser-like focus of past athletic pioneers such as Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron in baseball, Billie Jean King in tennis, and Willie O’Ree, the first black player in the National Hockey League, who broke through with the Bruins in 1958.
Based on the public pledges of sensitivity from the NFL and the Rams, and the fact that it is not 1958, one can hope Sam will not be spit on by fans or hear homophobic epithets the way Robinson, Aaron, and O’Ree heard racial ones. But Sam will have it tough anyway, for he hardly has a guaranteed spot on the roster. He was an All-American at Missouri, but NFL scouting reports don’t project that he’ll be All-Pro caliber.
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