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Is the Michael Sam “media circus” already over?

Circus Getty Images

Nearly four days ago, former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam came out as gay.  Since then, it’s been one of the top stories in all of sports, with multiple teams and owners and executives issuing statements, multiple players talking about it, the Commissioner addressing it, and multiple angles and issues being discussed, analyzed, and dissected.

It’s been a media circus, an inevitable one that was destined to greet the first openly gay NFL player.  But is the media circus already over?

Cyd Zeigler of Outsports.com, in an item written for Time.com, declares that it is.  NFL spokesman Greg Aiello presumably has approved of the conclusion by retweeting a link to the story and the accompanying message that Michael Sam “won’t be the gay Tim Tebow.”

“We’re letting the air out of the balloon before he ever steps foot on an NFL field,” Howard Bragman, Sam’s publicist, told Zeigler. “Our timing is the best thing that could have happened for these teams. . . . Imagine what would happen if we did this after he was drafted.  By doing this two weeks before the Combine and three months before the draft, we’re letting people absorb this so everyone can have their say and move on.”

But announcing the news before the draft wasn’t the original plan.  Sam’s agent has explained that the player intended to wait until after the draft, but that the timeline was accelerated based on the sense that a reporter soon would be breaking the news.

Whether the decision to make the announcement before the draft was deliberate or forced, the notion that the story will bubble intensely and then disappear seems like a stretch.  While linebacker Manti Te’o saw his fake dead girlfriend entanglement go fairly quickly from top mainstream news to afterthought, there was nothing more to say.  The questions of whether Te’o was truly duped or in on the scam were explored, he was drafted by the Chargers, the team insulated him from the media throughout the offseason, and by the time the season started it was a non-issue.

With Sam, the story will re-emerge at various points on the 2014 NFL calendar.  At the Combine, he’ll be as big of a deal as Te’o was a year ago.  Next, the media will pay more attention to Missouri’s Pro Day than it would if Justin Bieber were showing up to kick extra points.  (Or perhaps to carefully dribble a basketball between his legs, drive to the hoop against defensive efforts that would embarrass even the Washington Generals, and glare as menacingly as a misguided man-boy ever can.)  Next comes the draft, and as Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post recently observed on Twitter, the ratings for Day Three will set new records if Sam isn’t taken by the time round three ends on Friday night, May 9.

After Sam is drafted, the media will seek a reaction from every player and coach on that team.  Some may offer controversial views anonymously, which definitely will spark more attention and controversy and, ultimately, media coverage.

Then, Sam will show up for offseason workouts.  Then training camp.  Then the preseason.  Eventually, the question will become whether he makes a 53-man roster.  (And if he’s cut, the big top will be back in town all over again.)

Whether it all blows over depends on how everyone handles it, including the media.  If, for example, ESPN decides to broadcast live from Michael Sam’s team’s training camp — like it did two years ago with Tim Tebow and the Jets — the circus may want to put its tent poles in cement.

Zeigler also invites the addition of a new ring to the existing circus by contrasting Sam and Tebow, in a way that could rile up the many lingering Tebowmaniacs.

“Sam won’t be tweeting about his sexual orientation and slipping his sexuality into every statement the way Tebow did with Jesus and the Bible,” Zeigler writes. “Tebow infused his religion into everything he did, praising god to the press, leading a very public team prayer after every game, kneeling before God after success on the field.  For Sam, his sexual orientation is just part of him.  He doesn’t feel the need to proselytize for the ‘gay cause.'”

Tebow’s religious practices may have helped him become a mainstream news figure, but continuing them didn’t keep him there.  For Sam, his announcement puts him into a similar stratosphere, and he’ll stay there regardless of whether he tries to or not.  He’ll always be the first openly gay player in the NFL.  And the media always will be interested in him because of it.

It’s definitely in Sam’s best interests for the media circus to go away and never return.  But it’s simply not realistic to believe that the media circus already has been dismantled — and that it won’t be making several return engagements.

“I’m not naive,” Sam said Sunday. “I know this is a huge deal and I know how important this is.”

We’re not naive, either.  At some point, a player coming out as gay won’t register on the media’s radar screen.  Before that happens, one or more have to deal with the attention that flows from it.

No matter how many people tire of the story, Sam’s first year in the NFL will be a story until his first year in the NFL is over, and likely beyond.  Along the way, there will be multiple moments when the coverage is nearly as intense as it was on Monday.  And we’re confident that there will be teams willing to draft Sam despite the extra level of media focus that comes from welcoming the NFL’s first openly gay player.

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27 Responses to “Is the Michael Sam “media circus” already over?”
  1. Patskrieg dot com says: Feb 13, 2014 2:15 PM

    Football fans have basically said their piece, and it’s been largely positive. It’ll be a month or two from now when the rest of the opinionated world catches on and goes on a Facebook/Twitter shaming spree loaded with misinformation that this will pick back up again.

  2. arwiv says: Feb 13, 2014 2:17 PM

    Its not over…it hasn’t even started yet.

  3. dwntwnbadboy19 says: Feb 13, 2014 2:18 PM

    Hopefully its over.

  4. briang123 says: Feb 13, 2014 2:30 PM

    Let’s hope so.

  5. bastardfromhell says: Feb 13, 2014 2:30 PM

    Your dreaming if you think it is over. The avalanche is building and will soon come down.

  6. fwippel says: Feb 13, 2014 2:36 PM

    I sure as heck hope so.

  7. elwaysagenius says: Feb 13, 2014 2:43 PM

    Will be a big deal at the combine, the draft and training camp. Hopefully it’s done after that though

  8. fdugrad says: Feb 13, 2014 2:51 PM

    This is not going to be the HUGE drama that some people are predicting. It already seems to have subsided to some degree. In the end, everyone will just get on with their lives, on and off the field. Everyone on the planet knows someone who is gay in their work and/or personal lives, and life goes on and the Universe keeps going.

  9. seattlecvd says: Feb 13, 2014 2:57 PM

    Based on everything I have read so far, Michael Sam is going to be a big part of why this blows over so quickly. I think his responses to the onslaught of questions will be along the lines, of “hey, this is just who I am. But I am here to play football, contribute to a team and be the best teammate possible. Let’s focus on football.”

    If he sticks with that kind of rhetoric, then the media will eventually get tired of talking to him and try to drum up stories elsewhere. They will look for the quotes from players that say they feel uncomfortable, and maybe some of them will do that publicly until they find out via social media how many fans just don’t think this should be an issue. So, that part of the story will quickly come to a screeching halt.

    Then, it is a non-story, which is should be. It is absolutely ridiculous what is considered “news” today and what people choose to become opinionated about. There are so many crazy, tragic, and senseless things that happen every day in the world that should have our attention but don’t, and yet this is what we get all riled up about. Kind of a sad statement about humanity really.

  10. jkulha86 says: Feb 13, 2014 3:03 PM

    It shouldn’t have been a big deal in the first place.

  11. thegreatgabbert says: Feb 13, 2014 3:21 PM

    It was a career move orchestrated by his agent. After the Senior Bowl they realized that Mike’s best chance of earning a living off his college career was going to be off the field.

  12. kcflake says: Feb 13, 2014 3:22 PM

    I hope it is over. Tired of hearing about it.

  13. shaggytoodle says: Feb 13, 2014 3:32 PM

    It is all ready old, it feels he might get asked after game at the rate things are going.

    It will mellow out, and hopefully things get back to talking football sooner rather than later.

  14. eatitfanboy says: Feb 13, 2014 3:35 PM

    I think there will be brief flare-ups and the combine, the draft, and when the kid shows up for training camp, but I don’t see it lingering.

  15. Deb says: Feb 13, 2014 3:53 PM

    It will be a big deal at the Combine because you’ve got talking heads trying to find something to say during hours of live coverage. You can only reference Eisen running the 40 in his suit so many times. Ditto with the Draft. If he makes a team and plays without incident, the whole thing will die down.

    Tebow was an entirely different situation because he courted the media. How often do backup QBs give press conferences? I like the kid, but whether it was spreading the Word or setting up a career as a public figure, he always had a larger agenda than football–and generating press coverage was part of that.

  16. russellwilsonismymvp says: Feb 13, 2014 5:18 PM

    Seems like the perfect scenario for Jerry Jones to step in and draft him on day two. Jerruh loves him some free pub for the cowboys and selecting Sam would guarantee Dallas that all season long. And that defense needs a fired up talented player regardless of the media attention.

  17. rajbais says: Feb 13, 2014 5:19 PM

    Well, that’s a good thing because the media ruins everything.

    A story is only worth a 2-day look and maybe ensuing details after that, but it’s actually helpful for Sam.

    Less media means more willing coaches for his services.

  18. vaughnjoe says: Feb 13, 2014 6:13 PM

    ok

  19. pastabelly says: Feb 13, 2014 6:30 PM

    He’ll be judged by his merits and how grades out at the combine. However, all eyes and cameras will be on him at the combine and will be a major story on day two of the draft. After that, training camp and his first game will be overblown and THEN finally, it will die down again.

  20. doggeatdogg says: Feb 13, 2014 7:17 PM

    Here is how you cut the press at the knees: Don’t acknowledge their bait for a storyline on this issue. Players need to say “It’s what it is and move on.”

    It will be others who will drum up stories to keep the issue going because they expected more strife. Conversely, gay players need to affirm they are football players first as it relates to the team. I don’t know of any active player that is anything else first and football second. In your personal life, your personal life is first. In your professional life, it is your job.

  21. musketmaniac says: Feb 13, 2014 8:02 PM

    with all the money the league has why not spend some on modern locker rooms. With more openly gay players coming soon, and all the bullying, a little personal space might be needed.

  22. vicvinegar00 says: Feb 13, 2014 8:07 PM

    The only people who care about this is the media. They love it. They can’t get enough and are going to put Sam in a story every chance they get.

    Maybe some existing player will come out too and kill this hype.

  23. kyblue33 says: Feb 13, 2014 8:20 PM

    I wonder what God thinks? I bet He Loves Sam as much as He Loves me, and I doubt, God was surprised. We know He loves football, look at all the talented players He created.

  24. seaeagle707 says: Feb 13, 2014 8:26 PM

    Realistically speaking, what else can Michael, talk about? What can a straight player talk about vis-à-vis his heterosexuality? In both cases, neither has anything to “sell” the public on, or to inform anyone about. Dares there breathe a soul on this planet, that doesn’t know what being gay is referring to? Very young children perhaps, but is it terribly important to teach them the whole birds and bees routine, years before they’ll have a need to know about it, just to explain what a football player meant?

    Tebow was preaching a philosophy, not physiological facts. Big difference. (I don’t agree with Tebow’s form of “Christianity”, either. )

  25. prospero63 says: Feb 13, 2014 9:25 PM

    It should be. But I’m confident that there are plenty of folks that will continue to try to make it news, even though Sam, the NFL and most of the nation don’t care (which is how it should be).

  26. Ed Bandell says: Feb 14, 2014 3:07 AM

    Who created the MEDIA circus…I wonder?

    Every time a player is on a show, no matter what the topic is, they bring up the question. “What if your team was the one who drafted Sam, how would he be treated?”

    If the media wasn’t constantly trying to force down everybody’s throat that Sam is a hero for what he is doing, stopped asking the question all the time, and stopped demonizing everyone for their REAL feeling about the subject, maybe this wouldn’t be a big circus.

    One interviewer said that Sam’s own father should have just shut his mouth rather than share his opinions of his son being gay. Really? His own father isn’t allowed to express how difficult it is to deal with the situation? Because his Father’s opinion didn’t happen to match your view of what you think “right” is?

    Mebane of the Seahawks (as well as Red Bryant) were asked about this. Bryant ( I think) stumbled around his answer and made absolutely no sense as he said some players would deal with it differently, and other players would deal with it in other ways, and some other players would deal with it other ways too. He never really answered the question. Mebane was the one who offered the best insight I think I have heard on this. He said he didn’t feel like he should have to be prepped on how to answer questions about a teammates personal life.

  27. vaughnjoe says: Feb 14, 2014 7:42 PM

    Thats gonna be an interesting locker room. Is his team going to have to build him his own bathroom? Whats this world coming to?

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