That didn’t take long. Michael Sam, the openly gay NFL draftee, is getting his own reality television show with the Oprah Winfrey Network. According to a report from ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell, Sam’s representatives have been negotiating the deal for two months.
Think of Sam’s big kiss, for which Oprah’s crew was present, as the pilot (“Previously, on ‘As Michael Sam’s World Turns’. . .”)
ESPN’s Nick Wagoner observes:
While it’s certainly understandable to want to document a groundbreaking, historic story, it also doesn’t seem conducive to making it all about football, which was the message Sam delivered repeatedly throughout his introductory news conference Tuesday.
I had assumed that Sam was sincere about wanting to be thought of as an NFL player, not a gay NFL player. But that claim now seems to be untrue, an effort to improve his chances of being drafted and maintain his credibility thereafter.
In any event, Sam didn’t tell prospective employers that he was negotiating a documentary. According to Wagoner, “the Rams did not know about the Sam documentary before drafting him but were informed soon after the choice was made.”
Now that they know, the Rams seem unenthusiastic about having a circus to accompany their seventh round draft pick. Wagoner reports that they “don’t plan to allow any special coverage of Sam, including to those filming the documentary.” Thus, Oprah’s film crew “will have the same media access as everyone else for anything taking place at Rams Park or any other team events.”
That’s how things stand now, anyway. We’ll see whether the NFL induces the Rams to take a somewhat more “celebratory” approach.
Oprah’s reality show will certainly boost Sam, the celebrity. But how, if at all, will it affect Sam, the rookie football player? Wagoner speculates:
The transition to the NFL is a difficult one for any rookie and the amount of attention Sam has already drawn will likely continue even if it tapers off some in the next few weeks.
Sure, Sam will spend most of his days at Rams Park unencumbered with the rest of his teammates, but the cameras will be waiting for him when he leaves.
Based on [Rams coach Jeff] Fisher’s efforts to bring [a gay former player] to town to speak to his team and the other measures being put in place by the Rams organization, they’re doing all they can to ensure Sam’s surroundings are as comfortable as possible.
Whether Sam is doing the same for himself away from Rams Park remains to be seen.
Sam, though, seems quite comfortable in front of the cameras.