SBD/May 13, 2014/Media

ESPN Production Crew Had No Hesitation About Showing Michael Sam's Kiss

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Sam's kiss drew alternating waves of shock, anger and gratitude
The "kiss seen 'round the sports world on ESPN" between Rams DE Michael Sam and his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano, "took quite a bit of planning and a whole lot of luck," according to Paul Farhi of the WASHINGTON POST. ESPN cameras were in place at Sam's agent's house in San Diego on Saturday, and what the cameras "caught next was something remarkable -- and certainly rarely seen on Disney-owned ESPN." However, the kiss drew "alternating waves of shock, anger and gratitude from around the Twittersphere and elsewhere." The coverage of Sam's "big moment took several months of planning by ESPN." The net decided "not to assign a camera crew" to Sam on Thursday or Friday, when teams made their first selections, and instead "opted to wait until Saturday." ESPN also agreed that it "wouldn't air any footage if Sam wasn't picked" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/13). ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Seth Markman: "We never had one discussion about, 'What if he's drafted, his partner's there and they kiss?' Honestly, it never came up." He added, "When I got home last night and saw the attention, it kind of threw me. We're a young production crew, and quite honestly it was just another moment in the years we've done this. In the truck, we were only saying, 'Wow, this is great emotion here.' No one stepped up and said, 'Oh, wow, do we really want to be showing this?'" NFL Network Senior Coordinating Producer Mike Muriano: "We had no discussion on the NFL Network side about how or how much or how little we would show, if or when Michael was selected" (AP, 5/12). The MMQB's Richard Deitsch wrote under the header, "The Drama Behind The Michael Sam Drama." ESPN had "something no other media outlet had -- a camera on Sam and his friends and family." Markman said that there had been "a lot of behind-the-scenes negotiations for that access." ESPY Producer Maura Mandt had "embedded with the Sam camp" as part of the feature on him. Markman said, "He was comfortable with that group" (MMQB.SI.com, 5/12).

READY OR NOT: In Sacramento, Victor Contreras writes, "Interestingly, ESPN didn't show highlights of other picks kissing their significant others. So why play it again, Sam? Over and over" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/13). In West Palm Beach, Hal Habib writes, "Like it or not, the shot of Sam kissing Cammisano has already been spliced onto that master reel of NFL moments that includes the Immaculate Reception, Don Shula being carried off after 17-0 and the Music City Miracle" (PALM BEACH POST, 5/13). In Atlanta, Steve Hummer wrote the kiss was the "perfect opportunity for each to measure his own capacity for acceptance" (AJC.com, 5/12). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel writes the Draft "confirmed what we feared when Michael Sam came out: The NFL wasn't ready for him" (Ft. Worth STAR-TELEGRAM, 5/13). ESPN's Dan Le Batard said of Sam's kiss, "The sports audience was less equipped to handle that moment." He added, "Two men kissing on television is not something we've ever seen before in sports … and it created a great deal of discomfort, even as it was a reason for celebration" ("Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 5/12). The N.Y. Daily News' Frank Isola said, "You always have a guy getting drafted and he's surrounded by family members, sometimes his girlfriend and he gets drafted and he kisses her. It was just different and … for a lot of people they saw it a lot differently. It was shock value." Isola added, "There were other players who got drafted and kissed their girlfriends and you didn’t see it over and over again" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 5/12).

MANAGING MEDIA
: Rams GM Les Snead discussed managing media around Sam: "Obviously there will be more (media) people here than normal. ... But after all the rookie draft picks meet the press, that will be it. We'll get back to acting normal. After (Tuesday) you do nothing different. We've already talked to Michael and his people and told him he's here to play football. If the major networks, Good Morning America, the Today Show or CNN come calling, guess what? You're not doing that" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/13). NFL Net’s Steve Wyche said Sam "has to limit his access, because there are going to be guys in the locker room right now who are not going to appreciate the attention that he is getting." Wyche: "By announcing this pre-combine, he dealt with the crush of media, so he kind of knows what’s coming a little bit. To the point now, there are only so many questions that can be asked about. It’s not new anymore." NFL Net's Michelle Beisner added, "It’s going to be a circus, but it’s going to be a great circus to be a part of” (“NFL AM,” NFL Network, 5/13).
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