OTC: Mizzou’s Michael Sam Tells The World He Is Gay And The Media Reacts

BgFkKv0IEAAA-5J“I’m a football player. That’s all that matters.”
Michael Sam, former Mizzou defensive end and SEC defensive player of the year, after announcing to through ESPN and the New York Times that he is a gay man as he enters the NFL draft in April, ESPN
GH: Well, that sounds good but Michael Sam knows better. Why else did he engage a publicist, the New York Times and ESPN to tell his story? And what a story he has to tell. Read on.

“Leaving his first meeting with Sam at the University of Missouri in mid-December, (NFL agent Joe) Barkett whipped out his phone to call his partner (Cameron) Weiss with the big news. While Barkett never discussed sexual orientation with Sam at their first meeting, he thought he had figured it out: ‘There’s no way this guy’s gay.’”
GH: Gay is rarely as evident as Eric Stonestreet’s character on Modern Family or the swishy Stefon on SNL. Gay lives in many of our offices, church pews and households, silently hiding under centuries of manmade guilt. Gay is supposed to look like Richard Simmons, not one of the SEC’s best black football players. Welp, Michael Sam just kicked that stereotype in the family jewels.

“Our coaches and players knew all along about this and no one said anything. Just show the amount of respect we have for our family.”
@Kentrell_Mizzou, Twitter
GH: I find it just incredible that Sam’s secret was known by so many and yet so few. HUGE props to his teammates and coaches in this time of Twitter and an instant news cycle.

“The decision of where to go and whom to include wasn’t arrived at lightly. (Publicist Howard) Bragman knows well from experience that when you include certain media outlets, you simultaneously exclude others. ‘I know a lot of people will be pissed. There are a lot of friends in the media who won’t be happy because they didn’t get the story. And there will be lots of people trying to explain to me that we need to do the cover of their magazine. Part of the strategy is to announce it once, announce it well and let Michael focus on his football.’”
GH: I think how Sam released his story and the outlets he chose to release it are fascinating angles to this story. There has to be some anger amongst the local media who kept Sam’s secret to themselves about him allowing big news outlets like the NY Times and ESPN to break the story. Most major personal decisions in life should be made with the thought, “What’s best for me and my family?” Sure, we often want to please everyone but cannot. Sam chose to do what he thought was best for him and his story. He was likely right in how he used the media to break this historic news. But not all were happy about it. Read on.

“If you were paying enough attention and knew what you were looking for, Michael Sam’s ‘secret’ was actually something he never invested much effort in trying to hide. There were subtle touches that didn’t go unnoticed among a lot of us, like the rainbow-colored wrist bands he wore on game days. There were the knowing whispers — and almost universal acceptance — among many students on Missouri’s sprawling Columbia campus that for perhaps nearly a year or so, the star of the nationally ranked football team was comfortably living a fairly open gay lifestyle.”
Bryan Burwell, columnist, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
GH: The first rule of the media when the other guy breaks a story that you did not? Tell your audience it’s not all that much of a story. Burwell comes off here sounding petty and small. He even thinks he can diminish this news by placing quotes around Sam’s ‘secret.’ Not very classy, Bryan.

“Michael Sam’s story really isn’t that much different from all the other openly gay athletes we now know, of course with the exception of the extraordinary detail that he is coming out of the closet not at the end of his college career, but at the very start of his professional journey. The rest of his tale is quite familiar. People knew. Teammates knew. Lots of them easily accepted.”
Bryan Burwell, columnist, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
GH: Nawww, Sam’s story isn’t different at all from a tennis player, gymnast or swimmer admitting to being gay. Sure, Bryan. We hear your pain.

“(Gary Pinkel said), ‘We left it that whenever he felt the time was right, however he wanted to make the announcement, that we had his back and we’d be right there with him.’ I wish I bought that explanation, but I don’t. Sam doesn’t strike me as someone who wanted to keep this a secret anymore. If someone on the street would have asked me, ‘Hey, Mike, I heard you were gay; is that true?’ I would have said yes,” he told the (NY) Times.”
Bryan Burwell, columnist, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
GH: Burwell is letting us know, “Sam doesn’t strike me as someone who wanted to keep this a secret anymore.” Despite Sam’s own words in the Missourian — “I wasn’t quite prepared (during my final season at Mizzou). Later, I wanted to focus on my season, and I didn’t want that attention on myself at that time.” Sometimes you just have to accept the truth. And the truth is Sam’s chose to go beyond Burwell’s pay grade for this story. And after reading Burwell’s whiny column it looks to me like Sam made a good decision.

“The truth is, he spent the entire season cloistered from the media, so no one ever could ask the question. This is yet one more example of how awkwardly those in Mizzou’s athletics department handle big issues. They had a rare opportunity to make a bold and revolutionary statement about equal opportunity. Instead, they again fumbled badly. I hope his new NFL team treats his news with a far more progressive stance.”
Bryan Burwell, columnist, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
GH: The Mizzou athletic department has given us plenty of reasons to find fault with their work when it comes to scandal, PR and common sense. But the Michael Sam story is not one of them. It is the exact opposite.

“I wanted to tell my story the way I wanted to. I didn’t want anyone to ask me or trick me into talking about my sexuality.”
Michael Sam, Missourian

“(Sam’s) right to privacy was honored by multiple media outlets, including The (Kansas City) Star, as a simple matter of his choice to publicly discuss it or not. … His decision at last to (publicity announce he is gay), and how to do it, came in the last few weeks as Sam almost simultaneously told his story to ESPN and The New York Times on Sunday.”
Vahe Gregorian, columnist, Kansas City Star
GH: Gregorian doesn’t use the same venom that Burwell slices into Sam and Mizzou but he lets his audience know that he too knew of the Sam secret if anyone cares to know.

This night can be the University of Missouri’s finest hour. It can weigh in kindly, or be bigoted. Same goes for all.”
Dan Bernstein, @dan_bernstein, Twitter
GH: After the first 24 hours I would say that Mizzou is polling heavily toward this being one of the schools finest moments.

“I love how the University of Missouri handled it.”
Herm Edwards, 810 AM

“It’s wonderful to watch @MikeSamFootball represent the alma mater in such a brave, honest and classy way.”
Wright Thompson, @wrightthompson, Twitter

“The overwhelming reaction we received from people today is that this isn’t even a story. We shouldn’t even be talking about this anymore.”
Mike Greenberg, on the increased acceptance of gay people in American society and how Sam’s story relates to that trend, ESPN Radio
GH: Will Sam’s announcement create a flood of athletes who declare they are gay? Or is it still too soon?

“Missouri is one of the most politically polarized states in the country. It is rural and urban, southern and midwestern. I’ve always joked that, Kansas aside, Missouri fans could never possibly hate another fanbase as much as they hate each other.”
Bill C., rockmnation.com
GH: The Mizzou locker room accepting Sam as a gay football player has nothing to do with how the state of Missouri will respond. It is too early to tell but one would hope that the Show-Me State has evolved beyond its reputation.

“Mikey Sam! Your my boy blue! Do your thing brother! #MIZ”
Elvis Fisher, @ElvisFisher72, former Mizzou lineman, Twitter
GH: Fisher is as redneck as they come. I love that he stepped up and gave a shout out to Sam.

“The first recent college football player and NFL prospect to announce that he’s gay comes from the SEC. The league representing the region of the country that is considered least tolerant of homosexuality now finds itself at the center of the biggest story at the intersection of culture, religion and sports.”
Brandon Larrabee, writer, SBNation.com
GH: Two years into their SEC membership and Mizzou has overturned a century of hate, bigotry and prejudice. Not a bad start.  

“I don’t think football is ready for (an openly gay player) just yet. In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a (gay slur) is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”
Unidentified NFL player personnel assistant, SI.com
GH: How different is the NFL from a college locker room? I guess we are about to find out.

“All the NFL personnel members interviewed believed that Sam’s announcement will cause him to drop in the draft. He was projected between the third and seventh rounds prior to the announcement. The question is: How far will he fall?”
Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans, writers, SI.com

“Of (Sam’s) 11.5 sacks, nine came in three games against what one scout called ‘garbage competition’ — Vanderbilt, Arkansas State and Florida. ‘His numbers are inflated,’ a scout said. ‘You’ve got to see through that.’”
Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans, writers, SI.com

“If Michael Sam goes undrafted then shame on the Kansas City Chiefs., shame on John Dorsey, shame on Clark Hunt. There is no way that at some point Michael Sam is not the best choice on the draft board. There’s no way in a seven-round draft that there’s not a place on the Kansas City Chiefs for Michael Sam.”
Soren Petro, 810 AM
GH: I don’t think we need to be concerned about am not getting drafted. But Petro has four hours to fill so we get these kinds of “bold” statements.

“I would hope that it wouldn’t, but I don’t know.”
Gary Pinkel, when asked by Mike Golic if he thinks Sam being gay will affect his draft status, ESPN Radio
GH: No one really knows. Sam has to perform well at the NFL Combine and then teams will all make their own evaluations of his worth. Should his sexual orientation be a factor in their decision making? Sure. A good business should evaluate everything available about a new employee. Not drafting Sam because he is gay doesn’t automatically make a team homophobic.

“That’s the kind of atmosphere and family environment we have here at Mizzou.”
Gary Pinkel, on his team’s acceptance of Sam being gay, ESPN Radio
GH: I keep hearing this sugary line from Pinkel and those in power inside the Mizzou athletic department. It rings incredibly hollow in the wake of the alleged rapes involving Mizzou athletes and students the past few years. MU sees Sam’s announcement as a great PR vehicle to ride beyond these sordid tales and they are taking every opportunity to capitalize on it.

“Let’s hope NFL accepts an openly gay player as well as they did a player convicted in the obstruction of justice of the murder of 2 people.”
Peter Burns, @PeterBurnsRadio, Twitter

and Twitter @greghall24

About Greg Hall

Software guy who has been writing my Off The Couch column in KC newspapers, publications and websites since 1994. Has been bounced from some of the finest media establishments this side of State Line Road. Dad first and everything else second...and there are a lot of everything elses.
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72 Responses to OTC: Mizzou’s Michael Sam Tells The World He Is Gay And The Media Reacts

  1. jerk says:

    So…are the Tigers still going to call us the Gayhawks?

    • Harley says:


      No big deal. The younger groups (aged 16-40) look atthis as no big deal.
      Their reaction as was seen on campus at mu and from the players and
      students was NO BIG DEAL!. Students knew this story for a long
      time on campus and to them it was NO BIG DEAL!!!!
      Theones who were uneasy were those who grew up with a different attitude
      toward being gay.
      Truth is that for sam this will hurt his playing in the nfl. Its the reality of the
      situation. The media will go crazy covering it and come summer camp for any
      team that drafts him they’ll have to devise a plan to keep the media frenzy down
      (which won’t happen).
      The kid can play football. All American/sporting news d lineman award…and
      many others but the nfl doesn’t like the boat to be rocked. With their billion
      dollar machine running so smoothly now and the future where each team
      takes in a billion a year….they know this can be a tough tough situation that
      they probably would rather not deal with.
      A man who butchered dogs gets back in. A guy who drowned them…and
      used them as fighting tools gets back in….but the nfl will have trouble with
      sams getting into the league.
      It will be interesting to see who takes this guy. I’m looking at someone
      like patriots/49ers/ or maybe no one will have the guts to bring him in.
      As far as MU’s handling of the situation…I will admit they did an excellent
      job…leaving the story up to micheal himself. They knew there would be
      24/7 covereage and they let him make his own decisions on how to
      deal with the news breaking.
      People…the world is changing so fast. What we once believed 2 or 3 years
      ago is now changing. mAYBE its changing too fast and the beliefs are
      changing with it.
      Truth is I wish this kid the best. A 2 star recruit not only works hard
      to become one of the best d linemen in the nation…gets all those
      all American awards…and he’s about to step into the big time nfl.
      Hope things work out for him. If not in the nfl I’m sure he’ll have a
      book to write…speaking engagements ….tours etc. His agent I’m
      sure as an alternate plan in case he doesn’t get drafted or play in the
      good kid!!!!! I hope he does well in the future.
      MU fan forever (except when their bball team gets beat by some bad teams)
      your friend

  2. artemmis says:

    Hope his new NFL team will give him the number 69 jersey

    • Kyle Rohde says:

      In your bigoted reality, you realize 69ing is not a gay thing, right?

      • artemmis says:

        whoa..lighten up, Francis..it’s a joke..

        However, I will admit to knowing precious little about “gay things”.. and ..

        from your embittered , vitriolic response to my lame joke..,(. and ..uhh.. a glance at your pic..)

        I will concede you’d know WAAAAAAY more about “gay things” than me.

        I stand corrected.

  3. Paul says:

    Greg just remember that Burwell and Gregorian are STL guys. When it comes to sports STL is never wrong……just ask ‘em.

  4. Arte says:

    I want to know more about Fox 4 reading the Texas Tech fan’s lips.

  5. MightyMo says:

    With my four children, once they reached middle school, knowing gay kids had become commonplace. In the end, the vast majority of our children, even those who oppose homosexuality based on moral beliefs, will be forced to reconcile and accept without open judgment, or be viewed as bigoted outcasts. This train has left the station. As a conservative Catholic, I would echo Pope Francis comments about those who differ in beliefs, “Just do good, and we’ll find a meeting point.”

  6. Smith says:

    Another LGBT-related story beating its chest for headlines. Personally, I’m sick of gay people’s lifestyles and announcements getting trotted out as news. To me it comes off as narcissistic and self-absorbed. We get it, you want to stand up on the mountaintop and shout to the world that you love having sex with men. “I’m gay and I want the world to know!” So now the onus is on MY reaction to YOUR lifestyle? Suddenly the spotlight becomes focused on every straight person’s level of tolerance and acceptance to YOUR personal business? I just think the whole thing is loaded from the start. And if you dare say one negative thing or have the nerve to even be slightly unsupportive, suddenly you’re a bigot. As if differing opinions are disallowed in our country.

    And before you get on your soapbox and try to label me anti-gay, spare me. I couldn’t care less where a man sticks his poker. Do what ya like. Just stop telling me it’s news.

    • Jim says:

      Spoken like a true heterosexual that automatically gets all the benefits, both socially and financially, that his sexual orientation provides. You don’t HAVE to stand on a mountaintop and shout anything to attain equality in this society. As soon as gay people are afforded ALL of the benefits and rights that you automatically have, they will stop shouting and everyone will go about their own business. Get it?

      • Be Reasonable says:


      • Smith says:

        Garbage. My sexual orientation provides me NOTHING. Professionally, my skills and ability to perform a service to my employer are what provides for me. I get paid to do a job because I’m good at it, not because I’m a straight person who’s good at it. I also work with gay people who get paid to do their job because they’re good at what they do. Socially, I benefit from the people I surround myself with and the way I choose to treat them.

        Never once have I announced to anyone, anywhere, anytime that I’m heterosexual. I do not identify myself as a person based on my sexual preferences. The entire concept is completely shallow and self-absorbed. It’s also a blatant attention grab. You think Michael Sam hadn’t gained equality before his announcement? Did he not get a full ride scholarship? Was he not allowed to vote, or to shop in the same stores as you and I?

        I suspect that Michael Sam will now be given even MORE benefits than many straight players in the league, BECAUSE he’s gay. He’ll be more popular. He’ll get endorsements that most 3rd-4th round picks would never be considered for. He’ll be invited on talk shows. He’ll have media around him everywhere he goes. And why? Because he likes to have sex with men? Michael Sam may have just made being gay a marketing tool. So when you ask me if I get it, you damn right I get it.

        • Ptolemy says:

          ++1! Well said.

        • kylerohde says:

          Fantastic points, all. The only counter I would offer is that before the chest-beating headlines of the past decade, much of this country was still very anti-gay. I read somewhere that, as a political issue, support for gay marriage has changed faster than any other issue in American history, which I don’t doubt.

          A lot of people, myself included, didn’t know anyone that was openly gay and, as people have become more comfortable being open, that has changed. And now that so many more people have realized they have gay friends/family, those same people realize they can’t support those friends/family not being able to have equal benefits when it comes to marriage.

          I’ll agree that it’s getting a bit tiresome and I’ve heard a lot of the same points you made from other friends/family…but I’ll venture that it’s all worth it for the societal change it’s helped spur.

          • Jim says:

            Sorry Smith, you don’t get it. Until gay people can get married in all 50 states, be recognized by employers to be able to extend health benefits to spouses and be recognized by the federal government for ALL tax benefits across the board, then you will be equal. It has NOTHING to do with an attention grab. It has to do with equality. Any of the gay people you work with get married in KS or MO? Your employer cover their spouses with health benefits? Don’t be so thick that you actually think they enjoy ALL the same benefits as you.

            • Smith says:

              I get your points Jim. Loud and clear. But I think you’ve got your head wrapped around your equality take way too tight to see where I’m coming from. I also think you missed the core of why Michael Sam made his announcement in the first place. Not once in any of his comments did he proclaim what he did had anything to with fighting for equality for gays. He just wanted to get it off his chest because he was tired of hiding it. You’ve applied your own meaning to the whole thing.

              And Jim, as a matter of fact, the gay people I work with have no desire to be married. It’s come up in conversation a couple of times. “We don’t need a marriage certificate to define our union,” was what one co-worker told me. I’ve never asked them personal questions about what benefits they or their partner receive through their employers because it’s none of my damn business, but I do know they earn good money because they’re good at their job, as are their partners, and I’m sure like most full-time employees are provided benefits by their employer.

              Michael Sam’s announcement has nothing to do with marriage laws. Michael Sam’s announcement has nothing to do with employer health benefits or tax benefits. You’re off on your own tangents there. Michael Sam’s announcement was for Michael Sam. He made no political statement about anything you’re arguing about.

              And newsflash Jim: When someone calls a press conference, hires a publicist and goes on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, he most certainly wants attention.

              • concerned says:

                Smith, you’re very angry. is there something you need to announce? Maybe we can get you Sam’s publicist. You seem very knowledge about the gay lifestyle.

              • Jim says:

                To my larger point, once all the “barriers” to fair and equal treatment under the law are a thing of the past there will be no reason to call another press conference for anyone.

                • Smith says:

                  Nope, there will always be a steady flow of narcissists out there who call press conferences to put themselves in the spotlight.

                  Even if all 50 states legalize everything.

                  • Jim says:

                    Let me know the next time you see a press conference regarding segregation of schools or banning of interracial marriage. Both laws of the land at one time. Remove the stigma from something and it tends to go away.

    • bleary says:

      agreed, Smitty – but, sadly, they ain’t going away. As the wonderfully non-PC, and Jewish, Don Rickles joked:

      “jews don’t run Hollywood!

      GAY jews run Hollywood!”

  7. JD says:

    “the region of the country that is considered least tolerant of homosexuality”
    Brandon Larrabee, writer, SBNation.com

    Who considers us the least tolerant? I like how Brandon gets to express his ignorant stereotypical views on a group of Americans & no one bats an eye. Red State people are actually not the bigots the media would like everyone to believe.

  8. wonka says:

    most folks dismiss anyone associated with Mizzou as maggots.

    Looks like we were off by a letter.

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