Michael Sam’s reality show is not on air yet, but the reviews have been bad so far.
Sam is attempting to become the first openly gay player to play in the NFL. He was recently a seventh-round pick by the St. Louis Rams. Sam repeated his desire to be known as a football player, not his sexual orientation, after he was selected.
However, Sam contradicted himself by agreeing to let OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, produce a multi-part documentary series on his life. According to a press release, the cameras "will follow Sam as he works to earn his spot on the St. Louis Rams all while under the intense scrutiny of being the first openly gay player in the NFL."
As expected, Sam’s new teammates are not happy with the rookie’s decision to have cameras invade their locker room.
"It's an interesting case that he gets to work with Oprah and have his own show, but I think it does raise eyebrows and it may be somewhat of a distraction," an anonymous Rams player told ESPN's Josina Anderson. "But this is our first time dealing with something like this, so we'll have to wait and see how it plays out and how people react."
In addition, the player told ESPN he was unsure if teammates are truly embracing Sam or trying to be politically correct.
"Clearly I'm not sure how everyone feels, but from what I can tell so far I think it's a little bit of both, honestly," the player told ESPN.
Sam’s decision to participate in a reality show has been heavily criticized by NFL observers.
CBSSports.com’s Gregg Doyel compared Sam’s overexposure to Tim Tebow. However, Doyel does not believe Tebow asked for the publicity, but says Sam is seeking attention:
Michael Sam? He's doing some of it to himself. Certainly noise was going to happen around Sam regardless, even if he hadn't kissed his boyfriend after being drafted, live on ESPN and then in a picture posted to Twitter of him kissing his boyfriend's cake-smeared face. Michael Sam is the first openly gay player in the most popular sports league in this country: He doesn't need any help generating noise.
In addition, Deadspin.com ripped Sam's decision on Thursday:
He is another packaged product being sold to us at heavy markup—commodified smarm at best, and at worst something downright cynical, something that leverages real emotions in service of a marketing strategy. No one wants to find out that Lou Gehrig's farewell speech was copywritten by a dude at Pfizer.
ESPN columnist Jason Whitlock, a supporter of Sam, recently changed his opinion about the football player:
It all feels orchestrated now: the draft-day kiss; the cake-covered face; the tears; the celebration that conveniently captured just Sam, his boyfriend and his two agents; and even the "Stand with Sam" T-shirts selling onmichaelsam.com.
Who knew a reality TV show was being filmed? Who knew Sam's agents (Cameron Weiss and Joe Barkett) and publicist (Howard Bragman) had cut deals to be producers on the reality TV show?
This is all scripted and amateur. And devious, too.
Sam said he wanted to be accepted as a football player, but there are no other seventh-round picks garnering this much attention, or threatening to show up during team workouts with cameras. Even Johnny Manziel has been quiet since the NFL draft.
If Sam wants to play in the NFL, he may have to reconsider participating in the documentary.
If not, he will be recognized for all the wrong reasons.
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