I had the pleasure of spending six hours with Michael Sam on Saturday night, and let me tell you, America, if you don’t already love him, get ready to.
We met in Los Angeles at the home of P.R. pro Howard Bragman, who is leading the charge in helping Michael establish his identity before others do it for him. The dinner included several leaders from the LGBT sports community: former major league baseball player Billy Bean, who came out after he retired; David Kopay, a former NFL player who is gay; Brendon Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe, two former NFL players and LGBT advocates; Outsports.com editor Cyd Zeigler; and Michael’s agents, Joe Barkett and Cameron Weiss of Empire Athletes. We had each learned of Michael and the discussion to make his sexual orientation public at different stages; I learned of it a few weeks ago when Troy Vincent, a senior vice president at the NFL, reached out to me after speaking with one of Michael’s agents.
Written by someone who had to hide being gay when he played in the NFL ten years ago. Who is just amazed at how little it now matters.
In fact, the reason Sam came out now is to control the stroy. Too many people knew and some reporterrs were hinting they wanted to be the ones that broke the story. He actually wants to control it as much as he can in order to protect his teammates from being blind-sided by this. He wants them to be comfortable that he is a player first.
So, instead of having to deal with this alone, he has help from those who have gone before. He has a team around him to help.
But it looks like he might not need much help. He may not be one of the leagues top stars (few are). But it looks like he has a good perspective on this (he dumped his previous agents because they were too focussed on the gay angle rather than his football career) and people who can provide needed context.
He knows that this is important but he also wants to make sure that people know he is really just here to play football.
Hope it works out that way.