SBD/February 12, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Multiple NFLers Publicly State They Are Not Sure League Is Ready For Openly Gay Player

Thomas praised Sam's announcement, but alternatively criticized what it stood for
Giants CB Terrell Thomas yesterday said "no one really knows if the NFL is ready" for an openly gay player, as would be the case should former Univ. of Missouri DE Michael Sam be selected in the upcoming Draft, according to David Schwartz of the N.Y. POST. Thomas said of homosexuality: "I don’t believe in it, I don’t respect it, but if that’s what you want to do, so be it. I can’t speak for the NFL or our team or the locker room, I just know what goes on and what type of situation it’s going to put a lot of guys in. ... I think the biggest thing is going to be in the locker room. ... It changes things around the locker room. How you can act, how you can talk." Thomas said of Sam, "I know what he did is very courageous, a lot of people wouldn’t do that" (N.Y. POST, 2/12). Former NFLer Chris Kluwe said, "I don't think it will be that much of a distraction at all because he's there to play football and he's clearly shown he can play football" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 2/12).

MORE PLAYERS SPEAK OUT: In Toronto, Mark Zwolinski notes the CFL yesterday fined Montreal Alouettes WR Arland Bruce III and Winnipeg Blue Bombers DT Bryant Turner "after they tweeted anti-gay comments" pertaining to Sam. CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon in a statement said the comments "are extremely disappointing and do not represent the CFL’s views or the views of the vast majority of our players" (TORONTO STAR, 2/12). Saints LB Jonathan Vilma said of Sam, "I think that he would not be accepted as much as we think he would be accepted." Meanwhile, in Boston, Ron Borges writes NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith "didn’t help Sam’s cause yesterday when he attacked" anonymous GMs who were quoted in an article about Sam. Even though Smith's point "was well taken, it was the kind of sideshow such GMs will use against Sam when his name pops up around the third, fourth or fifth round." Borges: "Then he won’t be 'gay.' He’ll be a 'distraction.' ... What I would rather have heard from Smith was a criticism of NFLPA members like Vilma, because the fact is someone is going to draft" Sam (BOSTON HERALD, 2/12).

IT JUST TAKES ONE TEAM: THE MMQB's Andrew Brandt wrote the response in '14 to an announcement like Sam's should be "more of a shrug, especially to the younger generation." The question that "should matter" is "can he play?" Brandt wrote the discussion about Sam over the next three months "will be less about him coming out and more about his makeup as a 'football guy.'" It will "just take one team to accept that extra attention as part of accepting him," not "just as a gay man, but as a 'football guy' who can help the team" (MMQB.SI.com, 2/11). In Indianapolis, Stephen Holder writes Sam is "going to need a team -- its owner, its coaches its players -- to display similar courage" to when the Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson, or when President Lyndon Johnson appointed Thurgood Marshall as a Supreme Court Justice (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/12). In Buffalo, Bucky Gleason writes if the "crusty executives had a clue about generations after them, they would stop worrying" about Sam's sexuality. The "younger the people, it seems, the more they have been exposed to homosexuality" (BUFFALO NEWS, 2/12). In Detroit, John Niyo writes under the header, "Unattributed Quotes From NFL Circles Prove Why Michael Sam's Coming-Out Still Is A Story" (DETROIT NEWS, 2/12).

BITING THEIR TONGUES? In Illinois, Barry Rozner writes NFL GMs, "for the most part, are saying the right things" when it comes to Sam, "as are players and coaches, but many are not saying what they really think." They know that the truth "will get them in trouble" with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The "truth is some players will be uncomfortable with an openly gay player in the locker room, and some GMs will be unwilling to bring in a player who brings more attention to the team than a similarly talented athlete" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 2/12). In Chicago, Steve Rosenbloom wrote under the header, "Sam Will Force NFL Locker Rooms To Grow Up" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 2/11). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote what "so many of those older dudes who evaluate football players don’t realize is that most people of Sam’s generation and younger simply don’t care" about others' sexual preferences (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 2/11). In Toronto, Richard Griffin writes for Sam, "his battle versus bigotry and homophobia will be mainly against the uneducated, ignorant segments of the fan base, certain opposition players looking for an edge and, likely, a limited number of teammates inside his locker room." But the "majority of NFL fans, opponents and teammates will be supportive." There "will be problems for Sam, but ultimately there will be success" (TORONTO STAR, 2/12). ESPN.com's Jason Whitlock wrote Sam is "going to be just fine, and so will the NFL team lucky enough to draft" him. Most NFL execs "are smart enough to realize the Sam-media circus will subside quickly." Sam will "energize the gay football fan base in the city where he plays and across the country." He is "going to give gay teenage boys a role model, a hero, a boost to their self-esteem" (ESPN.com, 2/11).

A MARKETER'S DREAM: NFL player agent Harold Lewis said Sam would "be a marketing dream." Lewis: "He is gonna be on every talk show from David Letterman to Jimmy Fallon -- you name it. There's gonna be a movie made about him, and about what he stood up for. ... Marketing for this kid, it's gonna be off the chain. ... Usually players that we represent for marketing have to play in a major city. You have to be a major player" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/12). In S.F., Bruce Jenkins writes Sam's "groundbreaking decision is going to work," and in the "daily grind of social media and press coverage, it will eventually become a complete nonstory." It "will take the right team, enlightened and eager to move forward, but it will happen -- and that franchise will bask in applause, respect and a newfound fan base" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 2/12).
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