This past week at the NFL Combine, one of the words that came up a lot when talking about former Missouri standout Michael Sam was "distraction."
Fans and the media have bantered about how an NFL team will welcome the first openly gay player, and how Sam could potentially be a distraction to whichever organization selects him.
|Photo by: Ben Liebenberg|
This is a perfect example of the double-standard that is so blatant around the National Football League.
The vast majority of GMs, coaches, and players are worried about Sam being a distraction, but guys that have been accused and in some cases convicted of crimes are just fine, and in most instances, welcomed back to the locker room with open arms.
The whole idea of distraction when it comes to an NFL locker room is pretty ridiculous in the first place. The Patriots dealt with one of their best players being involved in a murder investigation prior to the 2013 season, yet the people within the organization didn't blink because they controlled the narrative.
Here is something you may not know about NFL locker rooms and the access that the media and fans get; it's completely up to the team who they let in the facility. The Patriots controlled the narrative from the start, and once the season actually got underway, you didn't hear a peep about Aaron Hernandez. Some franchises, like New England, don't have a lot of people within the organization talking out of turn, and typically, those are the ones that run more smoothly.
On the other hand, when the New York Jets signed Tim Tebow and let him do an hour-long press conference, they allowed a ton of media into the facility that under normal circumstances wouldn't have been there. Tebow went on to do interviews all throughout the year, and nobody within the organization ever saw fit to say maybe it's not such a good idea to let our backup QB who has thrown all of eight passes talk to everyone with a mic.
From my experience, I personally know people in the media that have asked questions just to draw attention to themselves, or they try to "troll" the athletes and coaches during the interview process. In several cases, teams eventually stopped allowing the individual in the building. In others, they did next to nothing. Point being, the organizations can control the environment if they choose to do so.
Just like in most professions, if you don't act professionally and do your job poorly, someone usually ends up putting a stop to it.
This is why the idea of Michael Sam being a distraction is funny to me. If he can play he will get his chance, if he can't he'll be out of the league; nothing more, nothing less. If a team thinks his sexual preference is going to be a distraction to guys in their locker room, that particular team isn't going to win anything anyway.
Organizations run by weak-minded people with no true leaders don't win games.
Also, for folks who are saying Sam was looking for attention with his announcement earlier this month, scouts, coaches, and GMs were already asking his agent about it, so by coming out now, Sam is the one controlling the narrative and isn't blindsided by anything.
And by the way, it was illegal for those NFL reps to be questioning Sam's agent about his sexual preference to begin with.
In the end, some team will probably draft Michael Sam, and he'll head to camp like any other rookie. Some of the questions from the media will be sophomoric and moronic, and some will be about football and what Sam can do to help his team win. But the bottom line is if he can't play he'll eventually fade from our memory like so many mid-to-late round draft picks do. If he can play, he's likely to have a nice career in professional football.
Either way, his sexuality will have nothing to do with it.