Michael Sam was a league leader in sacks this preseason.
“It was a football decision.” That’s what St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher said about signing Michael Sam in May and about cutting him from the team in August. Hogwash.
The first openly gay player ever drafted into the National Football League is now jobless, getting cut by the Rams and passed over by every other team in the National Football League.
Sam was one of the most productive defensive linemen in the entire league this preseason, finishing with three sacks, and eleven tackles, ten of which were solos. Every other player who had two or more sacks this preseason has a job in the league today. Before cutting Sam, reports indicated that Fisher would welcome Sam to the “practice squad” if he cleared waivers. That didn’t happen either. I wonder why.
Sealed with a kiss?
Sam may have literally kissed his NFL career goodbye the moment he was drafted. Had he just hugged, and not entertained an Oprah Network reality show and acted like a humble rookie, he might have a spot. He might have had an opportunity to show the world that a person should be able to follow his passion, do his job, and contribute to a team despite his decisions about who to love.
I’ve read many articles and found several tweets and quotes from Rams players welcoming Sam on draft day, but aside from training camp support expressed by teammate Chris Long, those sentiments have faded. The quotes about Sam are coming from the head coach, who (and I’m speculating) may have allowed the herd of his players (male sheep) to shepherd him in making the decision.
The Rams have plenty of justification. Their depth at defensive line is stronger than many teams. Nine at the position rated higher than Sam based on their position flexibility, athleticism and experience. But none outplayed him on the football field this preseason. Not even the undrafted rookie free-agent Ethan Westbrooks, who finished with two sacks and nine tackles and made the team. In fairness to the Rams, playing time leads to better stats and in the preseason it is given to people who need to prove themselves more.
Michael Sam is qualified to be a player in the National Football League, but unfortunately, he may have showed up on the scene a tad bit too early. He should continue to try to meet with teams. Maybe somebody will recognize that they need him. Now, like hundreds of talented football players on the bubble of their NFL dreams, he will have to continue to stay in football shape and stay in touch with general managers and coaches around the league. Someday, there will be a tipping point where the needs of the team from a skill set standpoint outweigh the fears of distraction and loss of team unity.
I believe in freedom. I’ve written about and spoken about disability rights, racial equality, and the rights of women. This is the first time I have ever expressed myself publicly about gay rights. But for a guy to lead the league in sacks and not even land on a practice squad anywhere? Enough is enough.
It is ironic that the backdrop of this story is St. Louis, the fixation of the eyes of the world because of intolerance. They call St. Louis the “Gateway City.” Gateway to what? Police brutality and homophobia? Unfortunately, Michael Sam’s struggle has to continue because I don’t think the players in the league are ready. What do you think?
Update Analysis: Hopefully, I was wrong!