Is Michael Sam a Hero or a Hustler?

Michael Sam is in a spotlight he put on himself.

In the entire history of the NFL, there has never been a seventh round draft pick quite like Michael Sam.  His story is unique.  He inspires and he polarizes.   On his chiseled physique rests the hopes, dreams and aspirations of an untold number of LGBT Americans who may care nothing about pro football, but are pulling for the first openly gay player to make a team’s roster.

But the feel-good aspect of Sam’s story was sidetracked by the revelation that a reality TV program for the Oprah Winfrey Network was in the works.   NFL officials were aware of this before Sam was drafted in the last round by the St. Louis Rams, but none of the teams were told.   Would it have lessened Sam’s chances of being selected?   Without a doubt.

As a rookie, Sam stands to make a minimum salary of $420,000.  Excluded is a signing bonus and other contract bonuses negotiated between the player and club.   Sam’s contract can’t be renegotiated until after three years and he would not receive any salary until the regular season starts.  If Sam doesn’t make the Rams roster, he gets nothing but the bonus money.

If Sam were to play for the three years of the contract, his minimum salary would to $495,000 in the second year and $570,000 in the third.

Michael Sam (and friend) get the good news.

“Michael is focused on football and making the St. Louis Rams team,” said Howard Bragman, Sam’s publicist and one of the show’s producers. “We’re going to work with the Rams organization to make sure the show doesn’t interfere with his primary goal.”

Bragman didn’t say how much Sam stands to make from the show, but you can bet it’s more than his rookie salary.

The pay range from the No. 1 pick to the last at No. 256 is more than $22 million.   Compared to Sam,  Jadeveon Clowney, the top overall selection of the Houston Texans will sign a $22 million contract, including a guaranteed $14 million signing bonus.   That last part is crucial because unlike the NBA or MLB, contracts are not guaranteed in the NFL.  If Sam bombs out at the first practice, that’s it.

Certainly Oprah Winfrey, the NFL and to a lesser extent, the Rams, are hopeful that isn’t the case and the Michael Sam shows ends before it barely gets started.   But there are no guarantees Sam will be on the team’s opening day roster.   As a borderline player who was not highly coveted despite his SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors, Sam is unlikely to find many other teams to latch on if the Rams cut him loose.

It is understandable why Sam would agree to the making of a reality show on his journey to the NFL.   Unless he make it in the league, his star will never shine brighter and burn hotter than it does now.   The time to maximize the Michael Sam Brand is now when the interest is there as well as the cameras and commercial endorsements.

What this does is shoot a hole in Sam’s assertions he wants to be known as just a football player and not any sort of celebrity.   Let’s be honest here.  If Sam wasn’t a gay man, there would be no story here.  He’d be just another guy taken in the last round of the NFL Draft trying to impress his coaches by winning a roster spot.

Making money while you’re trying to make a football team isn’t a bad thing, but there’s no way Sam can honestly claim he only wants to be regarded as just another guy.  He’s not.  He’s a celebrity and whether he makes the team there will be books, talk shows, and a ton more deals coming his way.

Sam’s representatives are making all the typical sounds of how this won’t become a distraction, but it already is.   Nothing about Sam leads me to believe he is stupid or naive and he’d have to be both not to know how this would look to the casual football fan who doesn’t care if Sam is gay, doesn’t mind if he kisses his boyfriend on camera, and only expects him to make plays and be about the team, not himself.

There is a strong conservative streak in the NFL.   When a straight player like Chris Kluwe made too much noise about gay rights, it was suggested by the front office that he should pipe down and when he didn’t, Kluwe was out of a job and out of the league.   If Sam becomes the go-to guy for what the gay athletes position is, it’s not going to be well-received in the locker room in St. Louis or NFL headquarters in New York.

While Sam deserved a shot and thought he should have been drafted higher, he pretty much went where he was supposed to go. Sam is a classic “tweener.” Not big enough to play on the line and not fast or intuitive enough to play linebacker. Even if he hadn’t been drafted there are reports he would have received invitations as an undrafted free agent from no less than four teams.

What Sam has said he wanted most was exactly what he got. He wanted to be treated like just another football player and nothing special.   It seems that wasn’t true now and while he’s still worth pulling for, his status as an underdog has given way to that of a savvy hustler, and that’s a little disappointing.   The burden is on him to prove he’s not just hype, but a change agent on the football field, not reality TV.

Michael Sam could be another Jackie Robinson, but if he doesn’t watch it he could end up as the next Tim Tebow.

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Rush Blows It.

Why, yes, I DO enjoy sucking on large, brown, phallic objects.

"Why, yes, I DO enjoy sucking on large, brown, phallic objects."

Rarely, (as in never) have I felt any need to comment on the same subject in consecutive blog posts, but I’m making this up as I go along and there are no rules to break.

The circus has left town and poor Mr. Limbaugh won’t be getting that NFL franchise he had his heart set on.  He’s been dropped as an investor in the group Dave Checketts was putting together to put together a bid for the wretched St. Louis Rams.

Boo-hoo. Wah, wah.

Rush will pontificate and pout for the next few days over how he was a righteous man besieged by a vast left-wing conspiracy. He can rant and rave and rage against all the usual suspects. He’ll warn of dark acts of vengeance against all that have plagued him. e’ll get the opportunity to wax poetic about his favorite subject—Rush Limbaugh—and the faithful will eat it up like little kids to ice cream.

All I care about is grubby little fingers won’t befoul any NFL team, even one as horrible as the Rams.

Ummm...I like em long, round and brown.

"Ummm...I like 'em long, round and brown."

It’s been a splendid sport watching how people play fast and loose with Rush’s obvious, deliberate and repeated acts of racism. Apparently, unless you’re wearing a sheet over your head and burning a cross in someone’s yard, anything short of that isn’t racism. Anyone can spot the overt bigots. It’s the subtle, sneaky ones that couch their racism and hatred upon the front of being “entertainment” that isn’t as easy for some to spot, if they can spot it at all.

I’m trying to envision a scenario where the guy who publicly proclaimed he wants the nation’s first Black president to fail then turns around and tries to entice players in a predominantly Black league to come play for his dogshit francise.

I got nothin’.

I’ve already seen on CNN some radio show mook describe what happened to Limbaugh as “a high-tech lynching” (and that’s a phrase that can now officially be laid to rest). It’s repulsive to even suggest Limbaugh being hoisted on the petard of his own words is comparable to the thousands of African-Americans who were slaughtered by lynch mobs.

Limbaugh makes for the world’s least likely and most unsympathetic martyr.

But it is a pretty impressive accomplishment for a guy who’s never held political office, holds no degrees and really doesn’t know much about 90 percent of the things he spouts off about but doesn’t let his monumental ignorance slow him down.

If Limbaugh is such a jock-sniffing, sports nut, maybe he should buy a NBA franchise and try to field an all-White team. He would only have to come up with 12 players as opposed to 53. The odds are much better.

It’s that or hockey.

Will Rush the Racist run the Rams?

Rush describes how many Black players will be on the Rams when he owns them.

How many Black players are left on the Rams now, Rush?

If starting the season 0-4 wasn’t bad enough, things got even worse for the St. Louis Rams.  Rush Limbaugh is part of a group considering buying the hapless football team. 

The news that Rush, America’s best-paid bigot wants to own the Rams is going  over like a big, smelly fart in NFL locker rooms.   It hasn’t happened yet, but some Black NFL players are making it clear they want no part of a Limbaugh-owned Rams:

Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka says that he’d never play for a Limbaugh-owned team. Daily News. “But I won’t be in St. Louis anytime soon.” 

“All I know is from the last comment I heard, he said in [President] Obama’s America, white kids are getting beat up on the bus while black kids are chanting ‘right on,'” Kiwanuka said, per the New York Daily News. “I mean, I don’t want anything to do with a team that he has any part of. He can do whatever he wants, it is a free country. But if it goes through, I can tell you where I am not going to play.

“I am not going to draw a conclusion from a person off of one comment, but when it is time after time after time and there’s a consistent pattern of disrespect and just a complete misunderstanding of an entire culture that I am a part of, I can’t respect him as a man,” Kiwanuka added.

Earlier this week, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb — the player at the center of the controversy that ended Limbaugh’s on-air role at ESPN after roughly a month — made his own views known.

“If he’s rewarded to buy them, congratulations to him,” McNabb said, per the Daily News.  “But I won’t be in St. Louis anytime soon.”

Jets linebacker Bart Scott echoed the sentiment. “I know I wouldn’t want to play for him. He’s a jerk. . . . What he said [about McNabb] was inappropriate and insensitive, totally off-base. He could offer me whatever he wanted, I wouldn’t play for him. . . . I wouldn’t play for Rush Limbaugh. My principles are greater and I can’t be bought.”

 If you’re a pro football fan does it really make any difference to you who owns a team? It’s said the only color that matters is green, but would most Black players really refuse to play for a team owned by Limbaugh? 
Would the last Black player on the Rams please turn off the lights?

Would the last Black player on the Rams please turn off the lights?

 I have my doubts. It’s easy to be principled about a situation that hasn’t happened, but there are only 32 teams in the NFL. For a lot of guys that means playing for the Rams or not playing at all.  Pro football careers are brief. Would a young kid out of college pass up millions of dollars because they disagreed with how the owner made his fortune?

Many people will stand on principle right up to the point where those principles are tested. That’s when presented with the choice between an abstract principle and a large stack of money, they just might begin to fidget.

While Mr. Limbaugh is a rather conservative fellow, NFL owners aren’t exactly wild-eyed liberals themselves and they don’t like controversy. From what I’ve read, Limbaugh would be part of an ownership group, not the principle owner. He might be able to squeak in, but I have a feeling the NFL would rather Rush enjoy the game as a guest in a luxury box, not the owner of a team.

There’s no sugarcoating Limbaugh’s long record as a racial arsonist.

  • ok, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.
  • They’re 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?
  • Take that bone out of your nose and call me back.
  • Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?
  • They oughtta change Black History Month to Black Progress Month and start measuring it.
  • Sorry to say this, I don’t think he’s been that good from the get-go. I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. (on Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb, 2003)

     I’m not  interested in trying to prove to anyone’s satisfaction beyond mine own that Rush is a racist. If you want to tell yourself that someone with a history of making racially insulting, insensitive and inflammatory remarks is just “a entertainer” that’s fine by me. Maybe appealing to bigotry and ignorance is the kind of crap that entertains some people.

    There is no way in a league that is 70 percent Black, the NFL can allow anyone as openly bigoted as  Limbaugh to own a franchise. While there will always be those who don’t care what the man who writes their checks thinks of them as long as they don’t bounce, others will make it clear they want no part of a team owned by an avowed racist.

    The NFL is a conservative organization whom according to Dave Zirin, the sports columnist for The Nation, over 20 years, 22 officials of 32 franchises have contributed more money to the Republicans than Democrats. Rush wouldn’t be unwelcomed because he’s a conservative. He’d be unwelcomed because he’s too divisive and controversial for the league.

    Let’s say Limbaugh is approved as the new owner of the Rams.  One of his first orders of business would probably be to sack the current coach.   New ownership probably means a new coach and General Manager.  The Rooney Rule compels NFL front offices to seek qualified minority candidates for these positions. What’s an avowed opponent to racial diversity and inclusion like Limbaugh going to do when he’s told he must consider Black candidates?

    Who’s he going to interview?  Clarence Thomas or Michael Steele? 

    It would be interesting to see what kind of players a Limbaugh-owned Rams might draft or go after in free agency. It might not be as much of an issue of Black players refusing to play for the Rams as it is Limbaugh wouldn’t want them in the first place.

    Rush Limbaugh could well be the NFL’s next George Preston Marshall , the racist who was the last NFL owner to intergrate his team. As much as Commissioner Roger Goodell stresses the importance of character, is a character like Limbaugh and his ass-backwards attitudes on race really the kind of owner the league wants?

    How it’s going to work that the guy who publicly proclaimed that he wants the nation’s first Black president to fail then turns around and expects the predominantly Black players of the NFL to come play for his team.   That’s a non-starter.  Or imagine if Limbaugh gets lucky and the Rams win a Super Bowl within Obama’s time in office.   The Rams might be the first team not to get invited to the White House.

    The St. Louis Rams can suck just fine without America’s most caustically corrosive commentator contributing to their misery. Rush should be flushed.

    Stick to baseball, Rush.  The ball is small and white.  Just like yours.

    Stick to baseball, Rush. The ball is small and white. Just like yours.