The Federal Communications Commission will likely vote this month to kill off its decades-old sports blackout rule.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced in a USA Today op-ed on Tuesday that the agency will vote on Sept. 30 to get rid of the rule, which requires cable and satellite companies to black out some games that aren’t shown on local broadcast stations.“With the first weekend of professional football in the books, two things should be abundantly clear: The NFL is king; and the Federal Communication Commission’s sports blackout rules are obsolete and have to go,” he wrote.
The rules date from 1975, when teams said they were critical to make sure fans came to sports games in person, instead of staying home to watch them on TV, depriving them of ticket sales at the gate.
But as times have changed, criticism for the rules has mounted. Opponents say the rules allow leagues like the NFL to be immune to normal market forces and disproportionally hurts teams in smaller cities.
The NFL requires local broadcast stations like CBS or Fox to black out games that don’t sell out ahead of time. The FCC’s rules require that cable or satellite companies that carry those stations also black them out locally.
Even if the rules are vacated, leagues like the NFL would still be able to negotiate with broadcasters and cable companies to black out some games.
This month’s vote comes in the face of intense lobbying pressure from the NFL, which has blitzed the FCC to save the rule and brought on former Steelers star Lynn Swann to make the pitch around the country. Civil rights groups like the National Urban League and a number of lawmakers in the Congressional Black Caucus have also called for the FCC to uphold the rules.
The league and other supporters of the regulations say they are necessary to ensure that games stay on free broadcast stations, instead of forcing them onto cable channels where revenue might be higher.
“To hear the NFL describe it, you would think that putting a game on CBS, NBC or Fox was a money-losing proposition instead of a highly profitable multi-billion dollar business,” Wheeler retorted in his op-ed on Tuesday. “If the league truly has the best interest of millions of American fans at heart, they could simply commit to staying on network television in perpetuity.”
Last year, just two professional football games were blacked out.
“The bottom line is the NFL no longer needs the government’s help to remain viable,” Wheeler added. “And we at the FCC shouldn’t be complicit in preventing sports fans from watching their favorite teams on TV.”
An NFL spokesman referred The Hill to the nearly 20,000 letters fans have sent in support of the existing rules, which Swann previously called part of a “growing chorus” calling for keeping them in place.
It’s about time the idiotic sports blackouts rule gets axed.
h/t: Julian Hattem at The Hill
Major League Baseball appointed Billy Bean, a former player who is now openly gay, as a consultant in guiding the sport toward full LGBT inclusion. This news broke earlier this afternoon.
Bean will offer training to players and staff, designed to educate about LGBT-related issues and to create a more supportive environment in professional baseball, both major and minor leagues.
"As a young man, I silently walked away from baseball for all the wrong reasons, and today I am truly humbled that the Commissioner’s Office has brought me back to lead the effort on inclusion. I will honor baseball’s great tradition, and be the resource that our current and future players need as they embrace their responsibility as role models to our fans," said Billy, who spent six seasons in the major leagues with the LA Dodgers, Detroit Tigers, and San Diego Padres. His last game with the MLB was in 1995, four years before he came out publicly as gay.
Commissioner Bud Selig made this announcement after the All-Star game this afternoon, which also recognized at long-last the life of Glenn Burke, a gay MLB player who passed away in 1995. Glenn’s sister, Lutha, joined Bud and Billy and today’s press conference.
MLB has previously partenered with GLAAD on initiatives like Spirit Day to speak out against bullying and stand in support of LGBT youth.
h/t: Agata Dera at GLAAD
Major League Baseball will use Tuesday’s All-Star game to make a major pro-LGBT announcement about homophobia in the sport.
Just before Tuesday night’s All-Star game in Minneapolis, Major League Baseball will make a major announcement about homophobia in baseball.
Outsports co-founder Cyd Zeigler is reporting that tomorrow’s announcement “will dramatically shift” MLB’s “ability to combat homophobia and help gay players, coaches and staff in the League.”
A year ago, MLB adopted a new workplace code of conduct that protects players and staff from anti-LGBT harassment. “We welcome all individuals regardless of sexual orientation into our ballparks, along with those of different races, religions, genders and national origins,” MLB commissioner Bud Selig said at the time.
In 2011, MLB added sexual orientation to it’s non-discrimination policy as part of their labor deal with the players union.
It is unknown is Commissioner Bud Selig will make the announcement himself.
Thanks to Mario Götze’s goal in extra time, Germany win the 2014 World Cup trophy. Miroslav Klose may have possibly played his final WC game.
Millions of Americans watched the United States advance in the World Cup on Thursday. Ann Coulter was probably not one of them.
In a column published on Wednesday, Coulter, the conservative pundit and provocateur, blasted the sport of soccer and trolled its U.S. fans, whom she refers to as “Americans” — quotes marks included.
"I’ve held off on writing about soccer for a decade — or about the length of the average soccer game — so as not to offend anyone," Coulter’s column begins. "But enough is enough. Any growing interest in soccer can only be a sign of the nation’s moral decay."
Coulter lists all the reasons why she says soccer is not a real sport. Among them: “Individual achievement is not a big factor.”
"The blame is dispersed and almost no one scores anyway," Coulter writes. "There are no heroes, no losers, no accountability, and no child’s fragile self-esteem is bruised. There’s a reason perpetually alarmed women are called ‘soccer moms,’ not ‘football moms.’"
Another: It’s boring, she claims.
"If Michael Jackson had treated his chronic insomnia with a tape of Argentina vs. Brazil instead of Propofol, he’d still be alive, although bored," Coulter quips.
[Related: Yahoo Sports’ full World Cup coverage]
It’s not violent enough for Coulter.
"The prospect of either personal humiliation or major injury is required to count as a sport," she writes. "Most sports are sublimated warfare."
In American football, she writes, “ambulances carry off the wounded. After a soccer game, every player gets a ribbon and a juice box.”
And despite the stellar ratings that Sunday’s USA-Portugal game received in the United States (18.2 million viewers, according to ESPN), Coulter doesn’t believe the sport is actually catching on here.
"The same people trying to push soccer on Americans are the ones demanding that we love HBO’s ‘Girls,’ light-rail, Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton," she writes. "The number of New York Times articles claiming soccer is ‘catching on’ is exceeded only by the ones pretending women’s basketball is fascinating.”
Coulter claims she’s not the only one bored by soccer in the States. “One group of sports fans with whom soccer is not ‘catching on’ at all, is African-Americans,” Coulter writes. “They remain distinctly unimpressed by the fact that the French like it.
"If more ‘Americans’ are watching soccer today, it’s only because of the demographic switch effected by Teddy Kennedy’s 1965 immigration law," Coulter adds. "I promise you: No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer. One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time."
Just shut your fucking mouth, Ann Coulter!
Let’s roll out the marijuana, pull back the laws, and get people even more crazy about yet another entertainment event.
Months after it launched investigations into the pay practices of the San Francisco Giants and Miami Marlins, the U.S. Department of Labor is now looking into the practices of two other Major League Baseball clubs: the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics.
The investigation, according to FairWarning.org, is similar to those involving the Giants and Marlins: it involves questions about pay for clubhouse and front office workers and interns who were allegedly paid less than the minimum wage and were denied overtime pay. In announcing the expanded investigation, the Dept. of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division also announced that it had reached settlements with the Giants and Marlins, FairWarning’s Myron Levin and Stuart Silverstein report:
According to agency spokesman Jason Surbey, the Marlins agreed to pay $288,290 in back wages and damages to 39 team employees, including clubhouse and office staff. The 23 clubhouse workers, who provide services to team players such as cleaning and preparing the locker room for games, were paid $50 a day. But they worked as many as 11 hours on game days, and so were not properly paid the minimum wage and overtime, Surbey said.
The settlement with the Giants involves payment of $220,793 in back wages and damages to 78 employees. Most were interns who received stipends but were determined by the agency to have been employees entitled to minimum wage and overtime. The interns worked in baseball operations and group sales, among other duties, and were due back wages ranging from $60 to $4,000 apiece.
The Giants had already agreed to pay nearly $545,000 in back wages to settle a previous case involving clubhouse workers. Major League Baseball warned its clubs last year that they needed to review pay practices, because wage theft had become “endemic to our industry.”
Pay for workers around professional sports has become a major legal topic in recent months, particularly in Major League Baseball and the National Football League, where at least five teams are facing lawsuits from former cheerleaders who say they were paid less than the minimum wage. The first suit, filed against the Oakland Raiders, said that cheerleaders were paid less than $5 an hour. The latest, filed this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, alleged that the team paid cheerleaders roughly $2 per hour.
Major League Baseball is also facing a lawsuit from multiple minor league players who allege that they also made less than the minimum wage. The former minor leaguers alleged that minor league clubs sometimes paid players at the lowest levels of baseball less than $7,500 a year and also required unpaid work, which could violate the federal Fair Labor and Standards Act.
This isn’t just a problem in professional sports. In 2012, data showed that wage theft complaints across all industries had increased 400 percent since 2000, and reports suggest that more than two-thirds of low-income workers will experience wage theft at some point in their lives. Fast food workers across the country are fighting for better wages from employers like McDonalds, which is facing wage theft lawsuits in three states. One report says that in New York City, where the movement against fast food companies began, more than 80 percent of fast food workers had been victims of wage theft.
NFL cheerleaders might appear to be a happy, peppy bunch, but off the sidelines their working conditions are far from cheery. On Monday, a former cheerleader for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sued the team, claiming she was paid less than $2 per hour during her 2012-13 season of work. It was the fifth such lawsuit this year; cheerleaders for the Oakland Raiders (Raiderettes), the Cincinnati Bengals (Ben-Gals), the New York Jets (Flight Crew), and the Buffalo Bills (Jills) have filed similar suits. (In March, the Department of Labor ruled that the Raiderettes didn’t qualify for minimum-wage laws because they’re “seasonal workers.”)
So what’s it like to professionally cheer for America’s favorite sport? The allegations and evidence provided in the five lawsuits, plus a leaked 2009 employee manual from a Ravens cheerleader, give us a glimpse into the life of the women dancing on NFL sidelines. Here are 11 things they have to deal with:
Long game days, with little or no pay: NFL cheerleaders are often paid a flat rate for games that translates to a few bucks an hour, at best. Between arriving before the game and staying after it, cheerleaders work up to nine hours on game days. The Ben-Gals are paid $90 per game, and the cheerleaders for the Baltimore Ravens and Tampa Bay Buccaneers make $100 per game. The Raiderettes and the Jets Flight Crew make slightly more: $125 and $150 per game, respectively. The Buffalo Jills, whose operations were suspended in April after five Jills sued the team, seem to get the stingiest deal—they aren’t paid for games at all. Instead, they receive a game ticket (worth $90) and parking pass (worth $25) for each home game, which they can sell if they choose.
Not getting paid to practice: A lot of practice goes into that perfect halftime show, but many squads—including the Ben-Gals, Jills, Raiderettes, Flight Crew, and Buccaneers cheerleaders—are not paid for practicing. Cheerleaders for these teams are required to practice between 6 and 15 hours per week.
Making public appearances for free: The real money for cheerleaders often lies in public appearances at community or corporate events—Ravens cheerleaders can make about $50 per hour for corporate events. But they’re also required to attend charity events twice a month, sometimes for free. The Ben-Gals, Raiderettes, Jills, and Buccaneers cheerleaders have similar setups. Between practice, games, and unpaid events, Jills allege that they work about 20 hours a week for free.At the Jills Annual Golf Tournament, cheerleaders are “auctioned off” and ride around in a golf cart for the rest of the event with the winning bidder—often sitting on the bidders’ laps.
Being auctioned off and sitting on the lap of the highest bidder: The Jills lawsuit detailed a number of public appearances involving “demeaning and degrading treatment,” including the Jills Annual Golf Tournament. First, golfers dunk bikini-clad cheerleaders into a pool of water. The cheerleaders are then “auctioned off” and ride around in a golf cart for the rest of the event with the winning bidder. Because there’s not enough room in the golf cart, Jills often sit on the bidders’ laps. Jills aren’t paid for the event.
Being fined for bringing the wrong pom-poms: Adding insult to already puny wages, some teams fine heavily for minor infractions. If a Raiderettes cheerleader forgets to bring the right pom-poms to practice, she’s fined $10. The same thing happens if she wears the wrong workout gear to a rehearsal, she forgets to bring a yoga mat to practice, or her boots aren’t cleaned and polished for game day. When one Raiderette accidentally got a Sharpie stain on her top at a calendar signing, she was required to buy a new one.
Buying dozens of copies of the calendars they posed for: Several teams produce swimsuit calendars featuring their cheerleaders. Instead of paying them for the photo shoots, some teams make cheerleaders pay for the calendars and sell them on the side. The Ravens cheerleaders are required to buy at least 100 calendars at $12 a pop—installment plans are available—and then sell them for $15 apiece. They get to keep the earnings, but if they don’t sell their share, they’re stuck with the debt and a whole lot of calendars.
Passing the “jiggle test”: It’s no secret that cheerleaders have to be in good shape, but turns out that being eye candy for the millions of football fans also means being subject to body-policing off the field. Coming in overweight can mean being benched for a game—which effectively means losing about an eighth of your income from games—or being dismissed from the team altogether.
Different teams have different weight-judging strategies. The Jills allege being subjected to a weekly “jiggle test,” which consisted of doing jumping jacks while their stomachs, arms, legs, hips, and butts were scrutinized. (The Jills manual also instructs, “Never eat in uniform unless arrangements have been made in advance. Just say ‘Thanks so much for offering but no thank you’…NEVER say, ‘Oh, we’re not allowed to eat!’”) Ben-Gals are required to weigh in twice a week, and if they come in more than three pounds over their “goal weight,” they face penalties: extra conditioning after practice, benchings, probation, or dismissal from the team.
Trips to the salon on your own dime: Being thin and toned is only the tip of the beauty-standard iceberg. Cheerleaders are expected to wear their hair and makeup in very specific ways, but often aren’t reimbursed for the cosmetic products and salon visits it takes to follow the rules. (Check out the Jills beauty and etiquette manual below for specifics.) The Ravens demand that the girls stay tan, keep their nails manicured but not too flashy, and get their hair dyed at least two weeks prior to every game. The Jills buy their own uniforms for $650 apiece, and while in uniform, are required to wear “foundation, blush, three natural eye shadow colors (lid cover, highlighter, definer), eye liner, mascara and red lipstick.”
All this grooming gets pricey—one former Ravens cheerleader says that keeping up her hair and makeup could cost more than $1,000 per season. A member of the Jets Flight Crew alleges that the team “required her to wear her hair straight, which in turn required her to see a hair stylist each week at an approximate cost of $45 per styling.” The Raiderettes handbook, according to an ESPN the Magazine article, simply says that it’s possible to “find yourself with no salary at all at the end of the season.”
Being instructed on how to use a tampon: Jills are given a manual that covers “appearance etiquette” and “etiquette for formal dining.” The guidelines are impressively detailed; for example: “If you are served pasta, never cut it to eat. Twirl a small portion on your fork with the assistance of a spoon.” Jills are instructed how often to brush their teeth and wash their faces (“Make-up left in the creases of your skin creates early wrinkles”). The manual even tackles what it calls “lady body maintenance.” “A tampon too big can irritate and develop fungus,” it reminds cheerleaders. “Products should be changed at least every 4 hrs.”
The full manual:DOCUMENTPAGESZoom
While we’re on the subject of lady parts, the Ben-Gals handbook (read the full version here) stipulates that “no panties are to be worn under practice clothes or uniform, not even thong panties.”
The Raven cheerleaders’ social-media presence is subject to a similar amount of micromanaging. According to the 2009 employee handbook, “If you participate in any social networking sites, such as MySpace or Facebook you are required to ‘Friend Request’ your director.”
Keeping these policies under wraps: It may be impolite to discuss money, but many cheerleaders are explicitly barred from talking about their income and their squad’s fee policy. The Jills handbook instructs: “NEVER discuss income!” The Ravens cheerleaders and the Raiderettes are also told to hold their tongues about the public appearances they’re required to make.
And doing it all with a smile: In their etiquette manual, Jills are instructed: “Do not be overly opinionated about anything…Be positive and consistently optimistic about everything…Never complain!” Ben-Gals are required to follow rules guiding their “attitude and behavior,” as follows (emphasis theirs): “Insubordination- Webster defines this word as ‘not submitting to authority; disobedient.’ Syn. Rebellious, mutinous, defiant. Insubordination to even the slightest degree IS ABSOLUTELY NOT TOLERATED!!! You will be benched or dismissed!!!” ; “Authority- ABSOLUTELY NO ARGUING OR QUESTIONING THE PERSON IN AUTHORITY!!!”
Looks like NFL teams might be out of luck on that last one.
Years before Michael Sam was born, gay rights activists Kate Kendell and Paul Guequierre were already die-hard National Football League fans.
Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, grew up in Ogden, Utah, far from any NFL city, and became a fan of the Los Angeles Rams because she’s an Aries and liked their uniforms.
For Guequierre, raised in Whitewater, Wisconsin, and now a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, it was a family affair. Treasured season tickets for the Green Bay Packers were acquired by his grandfather, passed on to his father, and now are his. The cover photo of his Facebook page shows the towering statue of a Packers wide receiver.
For Kendell, Guequierre and other gay fans of the NFL — their passion for pro football was rewarded May 10 with a moment they describe as thrilling: the decision by the Rams — now of St. Louis — to make Sam the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team.
“I feel like my support for the NFL now doesn’t have an asterisk come with it,” Kendell said. “It’s now truly America’s game.”
The milestone has made gay fans more enthusiastic and already is drawing newcomers into the fold. Many may become Rams fans or — like Guequierre — henceforth consider St. Louis “my second favorite team.”
The NFL says it hasn’t done any marketing research to gauge the size of its gay and lesbian fan base. Gay sports fans surveyed by Outsports said pro football was their favorite sport by far.
Outsports co-founder Cyd Zeigler said that Sam — if he makes the Rams’ roster — will further boost the NFL’s popularity among gays.
“People who have never liked football are buying Michael Sam jerseys,” he said. “People who have never watched a game watched the draft.”
As of midweek, Sam’s Rams jersey was the No. 2 seller among rookies at NFLShop.com, trailing only Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback drafted by the Cleveland Browns.
Sam — although drafted 249th out of 256 players — also was among just 10 draftees selected by the league to be featured on special bronze and silver commemorative coins, according to McCarthy.
Howard Bragman, a public relations expert has been working with Sam, expects the NFL and advertisers to capitalize on fans’ excitement over Sam’s debut.
“The first time he plays, you’re going to have huge numbers watching,” said Bragman, the vice chairman of Reputation.com.
“The NFL is a business,” Bragman added. “It understands very well that LGBT fans are passionate, they have good incomes, they’re concentrated in NFL cities.”
Sam already has done a nationally televised ad for Visa.
“The tide has turned,” Bragman said. “Martina Navratilova said she lost endorsements after she came out. You’ll find that Michael will do very well.”
That doesn’t mean the NFL’s advertisers will shift their focus away from heterosexual young males, nor are sexy female cheerleader squads likely to disappear. But gay fans may be all the more at peace with such things.
“We know who they’re marketing to with those ads,” said Guequierre. “Most (gay) people I know are OK with that. We don’t feel like we’re being left out.”
Now based in Washington, D.C., Guequierre, 36, tries to attend at least one Packers home game per year, and makes his tickets for the other games available to relatives and friends, including a lesbian couple who are devoted fans.
Guequierre said gay fans, like gay athletes, increasingly feel less pressure to conceal their sexual orientation while at games.
He recalled an incident at a Packers game a few years ago, when he stood up and vocally scolded a fan behind him who had called a ChicagoBears player a faggot.
“No one else gave me a hard time,” Guequierre said. “The guy looked embarrassed. … He came across as the bad guy.”
Guequierre’s passion for football extends to the playing field — he’s an avid competitor in the D.C. Gay Flag Football League, which has 20 teams and about 275 players.
One of the main sponsors is Nellie’s Sports Bar, one of a wave of gay sports bars that have opened up in cities nationwide.
Doug Schantz, co-owner of Nellie’s, says there are now 25 TVs in the bar, all tuned to sports, with pro baseball and the NFL neck-and-neck as the most popular.
“With the Redskins, it doesn’t matter if they’re bad or good,” Schantz said.
On the other side of the country, Kate Kendell has settled into San Francisco, and is a zealous 49ers fan — though her girlhood love of the Rams is now rekindled. She has raised her 17-year-old son to share her football passions.
“On Monday nights, we break with tradition of sitting around the table as family,” Kendell said. “We all watch the game. I leave office early to make sure we’re there for kickoff.”
Kendell expressed delight that gay youths would now be able to grow up with openly gay sports stars as role models.
“Many of my gay male friends are not sports fans — not because of lack of interest, but because their earliest introduction to sports made them feel stigmatized and shamed,” she said, evoking epithets such as “You throw like a girl.”
“While surely there will continue to be homophobic remarks, there is a sense of a corner being turned,” she said. “What I feel more than anything is a sense of elation and joy, that the game I loved since I was a kid I can now embrace without reservations.”
Sandy Rios of the American Family Association once again brought up Michael Sam’s kiss on her anti-gay radio show this week in order to warn that young people “are being brainwashed in public schools” into homosexuality.
She then read a “great” and “encouraging” letter from a 19-year-old viewer who called Sam’s kiss “gross” and noted “the diseases and mental scarring that homosexuality causes.”
The viewer said he has “given up on sports” due to the “liberal media,” pointing to Sam’s kiss as a sign of the End Times and that Christians might soon be “arrested for proclaiming the Gospel.”
Rios later criticized “ESPN’s brazen forcing of this on the male population” and “blatantly making men stop and think about things they don’t really want to ponder.”
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
A Christian lobbyist has followed through on his threat to launch a boycott of any team that drafts Michael Sam. Yesterday, Jack Burkman announced a boycott that he has promised will “make sure” the St. Louis Rams get “roughed up financially.”
Via a paid press release, Burkman threatens that “Visa and the Rams will learn that when you trample the Christian community and Christian values, there will be a terrible financial price to pay.”
“Openly gay football players send a terrible message to our youth about morality. Somebody needs to step up because the moral fiber of the nation is eroding.”
Burkman himself allegedly has a long history of challenges with “morality” and “moral fiber” himself. Take a look at these headlines:
Burkman, who calls himself a “powerful right wing D.C. lobbyist” despite his list of clients, is the head of Burkman LLC, formerly JM Burkman & Assoc.
His press release also states that “Burkman says he is urging the public to sell Visa stock they may own and to stop using Visa cards,” and, “Burkman says he is also urging Rams fans to not buy team merchandise and is calling on season ticket holders to stay away from games.”
Michael Sam’s official NFL jersey has had unprecedented sales, coming in number two, with 48 hours less selling time than the number one draft NFL jersey, Cleveland’s Johnny Manziel.
Burkman is also pushing a bill he is calling “The American Decency Act of 2014,” (PDF) that mandates fines of $8 to $13 million for any professional sports team that hires an openly-gay player. That’s $8 million to $13 million for each openly-gay player hired.
To break the next barrier, he’ll need to make the team this summer.
Michael Sam, a defensive end for the University of Missouri, was drafted by the St. Louis Rams on Saturday, making him the first openly gay athlete to be drafted in any of the four major American sports, and putting him on track to be the first openly gay player in the National Football League.
Sam, who was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, went as the 249th pick. He is only the second person ever to hold that title and fall out of the top 33 picks of the NFL draft. The other was Chad Lavalais of Louisiana State University, who was picked 142nd back in in 2004. Before the draft, CBS had Sam’s prospect ranking at 169.
If Sam went so late in the draft because teams were concerned about the unwanted attention that selecting the first gay player, they did not seem to be concerned about such impressions across the board; Zach Mettenberger, who plead guilty to sexual battery after groping a woman outside of a bar, went second in the sixth round of the draft. Prince Shembo, who was investigated in connection with the sexual assault of a woman who soon after committed suicide, was the 139th pick.
Now that Sam has been drafted, he will move onto the next challenge of securing a spot on the roster. He’ll need to make the team over the summer to become the first openly gay player actively in the NFL, and his spot isn’t guaranteed. As Alex Leichenger previously pointed out here on ThinkProgress, “Sam is considered undersized for an NFL defensive end and may have to become a linebacker in the pros…. His pass-rushing ability would be an advantage at outside linebacker, but there will be questions about whether he has the speed to play in pass coverage in the NFL.” Sam also had a fairly bad showing at the scouting combine earlier this year.
Still, some predicted that Sam would have difficulty finding a team that would draft him because of his coming out. One general manager predicted that he would not be drafted at all. And while public statements from teams and players in the league were encouraging, behind-the-scenes talk from people in the league showed doubt that Sam would garner a pick in the draft.
“I just know with this going on this is going to drop him down,” an NFL scout anonymously told Sports Illustrated. “There’s no question about it. It’s human nature. Do you want to be the team to quote-unquote ‘break that barrier?’”
Source: Annie-Rose Strasser for ThinkProgress
Michael Sam bolsters a deep defensive line … and breaks down a huge barrier.
The St. Louis Rams drafted Missouri defensive end Michael Sam in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Sam’s been clear that he wants to be regarded as a football player, and he’ll get a chance to do that with a team that’s built one of the toughest defenses in the NFL.
You have to applaud the Rams for this move, but knowing Jeff Fisher and the staff here, they’re all about Sam as a football player.
St. Louis is a relatively quiet media market, tucked away from the national spotlight that can sometimes turn into a circus. They’re also a team well-equipped to deal with the media attention. I give them a hard time for their overly protective approach to who gets access and who doesn’t, but that will at least keep the focus on football.
And congrats to Michael Sam. He’s shattered another barrier in the sports world and the civil right movement as a whole. Now, let’s stop worrying about and discriminating people based on their sexuality.
Sam was named the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, and was named a First-Team All-SEC selection and was a Consensus All-American in 2013 on top of that. He’s a playmaker at the defensive end position, with his best season coming in 2013, with 48 total tackles, 19.0 for loss and 11.5 sacks. He finished his college career with 111 tackles, 32.5 for loss, and 18.5 sacks.
Following the conclusion of his college football career, Sam publicly came out as gay. His selection makes him the first active openly gay NFL player. While in college, Sam’s teammates at Missouri knew about this and were supportive, but it sounds like Sam always intended to come out prior to entering the NFL.
Whatever the case, Sam is being drafted for what he brings on the football field. By all accounts, that’s a solid defensive end prospect with strong burst to pressure the quarterback.
40-yard dash: 4.79
Bench press: 17
Vertical jump: 25 1/2
Broad jump: 9’6
20-yard shuttle: 4.70
3-cone drill: 7.80
Unfortunately, Sam’s combine performance wasn’t all-that impressive. His 40-yard dash time was unremarkable for a pass-rusher, and it didn’t help that he whiffed on multiple attempts before finally getting it right. Some have questioned whether or not Sam can be a pass-rusher in the NFL, or if he’d be better suited as a run-stuffing defensive end. He could certainly excel in the latter role, which might be the best fit for him at this point. Sam probably can’t consistently beat NFL tackles to get to opposing quarterbacks.
BREAKING: Michael Sam drafted by the St. Louis Rams; becomes first openly gay player drafted in NFL history— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews)May 10, 2014
Congrats to Michael Sam and the @STLouisRams !— Karen Finney (@finneyk)May 10, 2014— St. Louis Rams (@STLouisRams)May 10, 2014— JoeMyGod (@JoeMyGod)May 10, 2014
Michael Sam is a smart pick/fit for Rams. Team puts premium on pass rush. Can help. And Jeff Fisher has a strong locker-room culture.— Bernie Miklasz (@miklasz)May 10, 2014
BREAKING: Rams select Missouri DE Michael Sam in 7th round. Sam is the 1st openly gay player selected in NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/7QrT0fJ01W— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL)May 10, 2014
Rams make history. Michael Sam is a Ram.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter)May 10, 2014
The NFL Draft will take place this weekend, beginning tonight, and there has been a lot of speculation about which team, if any, will draft gay defensive end Michael Sam.
If Sam does get drafted, the team that picks him will get to look forward to dealing with Washington, DC lobbyist Jack Burkman who, as part of his campaign to pass legislation that would ban openly gay players from playing in the NFL, is vowing to unleash a “relentness” boycott against the team that drafts him.
Burkman says that he has a “coalition of Evangelical Christian leaders from across the nation” ready to go as soon as Sam is drafted who will teach the NFL that “when you trample the Christian community and Christian values, there will be a terrible financial price to pay”:
Jack Burkman, head of the Washington, D.C. lobbying firm J.M. Burkman & Assoc. who is seeking to ban gays from the NFL, says he intends to build a national coalition to boycott any football franchise that picks openly gay football player Michael Sam in the NFL Draft, which starts Thursday at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
In a release issued Thursday, Burkman said he would “leverage his political clout” to ensure that the franchise that selects the 6-foot-2, 260-pound defensive end from Missouri would get “roughed up financially.”
"We shall exercise our First Amendment rights and shall not stop until the drafting NFL franchise cannot sell a single ticket, jersey or autographed football," said Burkman. "In short, we shall be relentless."
Burkman claims in the release that he is currently mobilizing “powerful grassroots organizations in 27 of the 50 states,” as well as a “coalition of Evangelical Christian leaders from across the nation to take part in a protest if Sam is drafted.”
"The NFL, like most of the rest of American business, is about to learn that when you trample the Christian community and Christian values there will be a terrible financial price to pay," said Burkman.
Get over it, Jack Burkman! Michael Sam (whether he is drafted or not) will hopefully be a good player down the road.
h/t: Kyla Mantyla at RWW