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ESPN clumsily moves on from Michael Sam shower report

Sam AP

As Michael Sam waits for an NFL opportunity that may never come, some think that the reluctance of other teams to add the SEC defensive player of the year to the practice squad flows from the ESPN report regarding his shower habits.

While his shower habits and anything else unrelated to his football skills should have no relevance as to whether he should hold one of the 2,016 jobs currently available in the NFL, the extra attention and potential for external disruption connected to a member of the practice squad could be making some (or perhaps many) teams shy away.

We’ll never know whether Sam would be on a roster if ESPN hadn’t inadvertently complicated his situation by haphazardly trying to share some of its details, even if those details weren’t fully developed.  But we do know more about how the story came to be, courtesy of Richard Deitsch of SI.com.

Deitsch explains how the story of Sam’s habits could have been a real story, if it had been reported the right way — and of course if the facts had supported a conclusion that Sam deliberately was avoiding the shower room when teammates were present.

“In the right hands and with the right reporting, it can be a story,” Outsports.com co-founder Jim Buzinksi told Deitsch. “If one were to determine that Sam was in fact not showering with his teammates and that his behavior is different from the showering habits of the other Rams, that could be a legit story. But it has to be seriously reported and sourced. What Josina Anderson did was throw out one anonymous player who said Sam ‘seemed’ to be holding back showering, then quoted another saying there could be a million reasons why this is. . . .

“It was junk food reporting, devoid of journalistically nutritional value. When Jon Stewart makes you a punchline, you know you have swung and missed.”

ESPN doesn’t seem to be willing to further dissect its K.  ESPN declined to make reporter Josina Anderson available to Deitsch, and she separately declined comment when Deitsch contacted her directly.

That’s a bad decision, on both fronts.  While it’s obvious that ESPN has decided that not talking about the story will end the discussion of it, ESPN needs to fully own it and discuss it and debate it if the media in general is going to actually learn from it.

Deitsch separately learned that Anderson didn’t ask about Sam’s shower habits, and that a player brought up the shower issue in response to a question regarding how Sam is fitting in.  While it hardly excuses the decision to publish those details, which carried many more fingerprints than Anderson’s, it helps paint the full picture about what happened.  If ESPN had cooperated with Deitsch in the same way ESPN hopes that teams and players will cooperate with ESPN, the picture would be even more complete.

Deitsch has other great details that help tell the story about how a story that shouldn’t have been told came to be.

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36 Responses to “ESPN clumsily moves on from Michael Sam shower report”
  1. jamaltimore says: Sep 2, 2014 10:13 AM

    Hmm, the shower issue always comes up the discussion of gay athletes. Still don’t know if these comments are true but if so reporting that the gay player doesn’t shower with the team seems legit to me.

  2. greej1938l says: Sep 2, 2014 10:15 AM

    Whether people want to believe it or not…to some degree there had to be some truth to that…i cant imagine EVERYONE was comfortable showering with him…as bad as that may sound. It’s there right…to feel that way

  3. aa1829 says: Sep 2, 2014 10:18 AM

    Nothing is relevant but his skill. Not domestic violence, DWI, gun violations, PEDs, nothing. OK, thanks for the info. Now we can quit discussing those things and just let those guys play, because “anything else unrelated to his football skills should have no relevance as to whether he should hold one of the 2,016 jobs currently available in the NFL.”

  4. redngold1 says: Sep 2, 2014 10:21 AM

    ESPN is on the threshold of the big bank club. Members of the big bank club are too big to fail. And so members can take liberties, knowing the consequence will be one single obligation to apologize. ESPN has empathy only for ESPN.

  5. hanspard says: Sep 2, 2014 10:23 AM

    Nothing is relevant but his skill. Not domestic violence, DWI, gun violations, PEDs, nothing. OK, thanks for the info. Now we can quit discussing those things and just let those guys play, because “anything else unrelated to his football skills should have no relevance as to whether he should hold one of the 2,016 jobs currently available in the NFL.”

    ———————————————–

    Aside from the slight difference that the things you listed are crimes, you’re right.

  6. bigtimebrownie says: Sep 2, 2014 10:28 AM

    I don’t care how the guy showers.

  7. 6ball says: Sep 2, 2014 10:28 AM

    .
    If ESPN has moved on, shouldn’t we all?
    .

  8. icewalker946 says: Sep 2, 2014 10:29 AM

    At least ESPN didn’t report a 4-time Super Bowl winning quarterback had died.

    I think in order to be the first to get the story out, mistakes happen. Heck, even the best laid plans go out the window once the bullets start to fly, or in this case, when others dissect the story.

    We have never had this before, a gay football player. It’s not like anyone has a ‘rule book’ for what and what not to write/say.

  9. klroot says: Sep 2, 2014 10:31 AM

    I want my equal rights too ,I have not been invited on a practice squad either , so how about a story about me? I also do not shower with other men,
    I do like to kiss girls with big beautiful smiles!
    so if I’m not a storyI fail to see where the story is with Mr Sam

  10. cuda1234 says: Sep 2, 2014 10:32 AM

    I still want to know where the union is on this. Aren’t they supposed to look out for their members in the workplace? Why do they allow the NFL to make its employees get naked and parade around in front of reporterettes and gay men? Seriously, how is that an acceptable workplace? Where is Jon Martin’s mom when you need her?

  11. huskerguy says: Sep 2, 2014 10:32 AM

    Jon Stewart misses more than he hits.

    Doesn’t surprise me you all like him.

    I’m not an espn fan but in glad they asked the question everyone else avoids.

  12. natigator says: Sep 2, 2014 10:33 AM

    Articles like these are why Michael Sam will likely be left off any practice squad in the league.

    You take low-level players and heap elite-level hype on them it is going to keep teams away and determine its not worth the bother. Same reason Tebow isn’t in the league anymore.

    If I were in the personnel process, and I had two players before me, both projects, neither one projects highly for his NFL future. One will toil in relative obscurity and serve as a glorified moving tackling dummy for a year or two, the other will be anything but anonymous and I’d have to answer questions on a daily basis about his progress, when he might make the active roster etc, I’d opt for the other guy.

  13. hairpie2 says: Sep 2, 2014 10:37 AM

    Youd think espn would be a little more cautions with their reporting after the humiliating “spygate” and “walkthrough tape” incidents completely blew up in their face.

  14. aa1829 says: Sep 2, 2014 10:38 AM

    Nothing is relevant but his skill. Not domestic violence, DWI, gun violations, PEDs, nothing. OK, thanks for the info. Now we can quit discussing those things and just let those guys play, because “anything else unrelated to his football skills should have no relevance as to whether he should hold one of the 2,016 jobs currently available in the NFL.”

    ———————————————–

    Aside from the slight difference that the things you listed are crimes, you’re right.

    —————

    Read the article, it says “anything else unrelated to football.” It did not say anything else unrelated to football or other crimes. We have a criminal justice system, as much as it stinks, to take care of the criminal situations, but in this article, nothing else unrelated to football should matter.

  15. thirdistheworrd says: Sep 2, 2014 10:38 AM

    Jeez, leave the kid alone. If he wasn’t gay, no one would talk about an untalented seventh-round pick. If the whole idea is that we want gay and straight players to be treated equally, maybe we should start treating them equally. And I know Sam is a special circumstance, but all the press coverage can’t possibly be good for his career. It doesn’t matter how sloppy the reporting is; the 24/7 coverage is what’s killing him, not a lack of journalistic professionalism.

  16. willycents says: Sep 2, 2014 10:44 AM

    If/when a female competes for an NFL job, will the media report that she is hesitant to shower with the rest of the team? Will they report breathlessly that she is afforded the “perk” of a separate dressing room from the team?
    What would the media have reported if Sam had been given that “perk” due to his sexual orientation?
    How about some analysis of the repercussions of a female trying out for an NFL team? Would it be a different conclusion for her chances? Would we get the same number of articles daily keeping us current on her lack of making a team?

  17. fwippel says: Sep 2, 2014 10:45 AM

    Look, if Sam’s sexual orientation had anything to do with him not being signed to a roster, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

    It’s not just ESPN, but every other media outlet that helped construct this imaginary glass ceiling for the sole purpose of having Michael Sam break that ceiling so everyone could celebrate this so-called ground-breaking event.

    And then, there’s Sam himself. It was Michael Sam who made the decision to come out of the closet, it was Sam who made the decision to put on a PDA in for all the world to see, and it was Sam who accepted (and then wisely reconsidered) being part of reality show on the Oprah network.

    The problem with all this? It gave the impression that Sam was more interested in making a social statement than in making an NFL roster. That may not be a fair assessment of the facts, but the reality is that the media pushed so hard for Sam to make a roster, that it had the opposite effect. No team or coaching staff wants to be around that circus.

    On the other hand, if Sam had kept his mouth shut until after the final decisions were made, he would have stood a much better chance of finding a roster spot.

  18. tennesseeoilers says: Sep 2, 2014 10:50 AM

    Hanspard said:

    “Aside from the slight difference that the things you listed are crimes, you’re right.”

    ———————————————–

    You make a valid point, Hanspard. … Following your lead, here’s a revision to Aa1829′s submission:

    Nothing is relevant but his skill. Not gender, interpersonal habits (locker room chemistry), level of emotional maturity, integrity or lack there of, nothing. OK, thanks for the info. Now we can quit discussing those things and just let those guys play, because “anything else unrelated to his football skills should have no relevance as to whether he should hold one of the 2,016 jobs currently available in the NFL.”

  19. nowillrepeat says: Sep 2, 2014 10:54 AM

    How is the Daily Show still on air? Seriously? I have never laughed once at that filth, and consider it unbelievable hypocritical. John Stewart’s only good role was in Big Daddy.

  20. pleazenufalready says: Sep 2, 2014 10:58 AM

    ESPN continues to prove that if they had any competition, they’d be off the air.

  21. nowillrepeat says: Sep 2, 2014 10:59 AM

    And Half-Baked

  22. rajbais says: Sep 2, 2014 11:01 AM

    Well, when you’ve given Jeff fisher good pub all these years (in my opinion it’s because there might be clients of Marvin Demoff, Fisher’s agent, there) you’ll emulate a true loser by clumsily moving on.

    After all, they made his life bigger than expected and just clumsily moved on the way fisher did from Sam.

  23. weepingjebus says: Sep 2, 2014 11:03 AM

    Picture shows when he heard the rumor he might be picked up by the Jets.

  24. zeeman911 says: Sep 2, 2014 11:08 AM

    Don’t understand why they are catching and flak for telling a true story?? Oh wait it doesn’t fit the “agenda”…

  25. lostsok says: Sep 2, 2014 11:13 AM

    The sad thing is that much of the reluctance to sign Sam probably stems from the fact that he has little special teams upside. He has a nearly one-dimensional skill-set, and can’t help on the bottom of the roster if he can’t excel on special teams, so even as a developmental player his chance to crack the roster is limited.

    This has ended the career of a lot of players, especially linemen, and it has nothing to do with showering habits.

  26. lunarpie says: Sep 2, 2014 11:19 AM

    Nobody care about Michael Sam’s gayness!

    We care about real NFL football issues. He got cut from the Rams for legitimate reasons and is not on any other NFL team. He’s one of hundreds of other players that were recently cut and there are plenty of other stories about Week 1.

  27. stew48 says: Sep 2, 2014 11:20 AM

    From my viewpoint, the 24/7 coverage is/was a definite lack of professional journalism. And, I agree the same lack of professionalism did nothing to help Tebow do anything but fail. Perhaps we all need to realize that the level of talent in journalism has the same unevenness as the players in football, or any other sport. Or, any other field of endeavor. In fifty years, my weaknesses as a salesman were observed only by a few; as were my strengths. And, those that did see the weaknesses did not conclude that I was the worlds biggest jerk or failure. (or did they?)

  28. pw1265 says: Sep 2, 2014 11:33 AM

    ESPN has become a big joke. I use to love watching them when they first came on the air…now I only turn it on when absolutely necessary. they have become a bunch of idiots…imo.

  29. cards4lyf says: Sep 2, 2014 11:36 AM

    To be honest, in very surprised. After reading the article I expected to read a bunch of “replies” that basically said, WHO CARES. Obviously, I’m in the minority. I don’t care about his shower habits, his teeth brushing habits, his flossing habits, or any other personal hygiene habits he has. And neither should you. Look, he obviously was going out of his way to not make anyone feel uncomfortable, thus giving St Louis any reason to cut him. We shouldn’t care who he showers with OR has sex with, as long as their of age and consenting, have at it. All we should care about is can he play the end rusher in a 4-3 scheme. PERIOD! Any problem that arises, is not that of Michael Sam’s, it’s of others. Was it MLK’s problem, that others took issue with him being black?! Nope!! Is it the fault of a woman for being born of a different gender, and her work mates taking issue with her rise through the ranks (or not)?! NOPE!! AND Sam’s sexual orientation is not his problem, it’s ours!! If his teammates feel “uncomfortable”, SO WHAT! Odds are, they are showing with someone who beats their wife!

  30. railcarcowboy says: Sep 2, 2014 11:42 AM

    There are not 2,016 jobs available for a 4-3 DE that can’t play special teams.

  31. pastabelly says: Sep 2, 2014 12:52 PM

    Sam was among the final 7 selections in the entire draft and a fringe NFL player, at best. Nobody is making a big deal of every player selected before him who failed to make a roster or practice squad. If Sam had been drafted on days 1 or 2 of the draft, his failure to make a team would be a story. All we get now is blame ESPN, Blame the Rams, Blame the NFL, etc. Let it go already.

  32. elyasm says: Sep 2, 2014 1:41 PM

    This is the second article today about a report about a 7th round pick that can’t even make a practice squad, and you wonder why no team wants to touch him?

    What’s the upside to signing him? He has an average level of talent, limited versatility and a tweener body size ill-suited to DE or LB. He also has a Tebow sized media circus following his every move.

    Why on earth would a coach want to sign this guy at this point? Do you really think there is a single coach in the NFL that wants to hear questions about a practice squad player at every press conference?

  33. jeff d. says: Sep 2, 2014 1:50 PM

    While ESPN’s story around this is absolutely ridiculous and stupid – no arguments… Let’s not put the blame on this story for the issues Sam will face hooking on with a team.

    The media IN GENERAL is to blame for the 7×24 coverage of his story during the draft. Whether he should be drafted, coverage of ‘the kiss’, is he worthy of a high level draft pick or not, why was he picked in the late rounds if he was SEC Defensive POTY, etc. etc. The continued dissecting of him, his being openly gay and his path through this story by the media is beyond ridiculous.

    The media in general needs to look in the mirror and understand how stupid coverage of this entire ordeal has been.

  34. smackingfools says: Sep 2, 2014 3:29 PM

    Suspend your network for a week.

  35. ravensfanforlife2012 says: Sep 2, 2014 3:55 PM

    Just another move by espn to bash on the first openly gay nfl player like they bashed on tebow espn is a joke

  36. packmanfan says: Sep 3, 2014 1:07 AM

    As long as anything sports related to showers is not another Sandusky crime, who cares who showers with whom?

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