Before Michael Sam, the NFL's first openly gay player, ever set foot on an NFL football field, doubters had claimed that he would be a distraction to his team and shunned by his teammates. However, in the first media flare-up regarding Sam's orientation, he has received the definitive support of one of the strongest voices in his locker room.
The precipitating incident was an ESPN report on how Sam, no sure thing to make the Rams' roster, was adjusting to life with his new teammates. And after some initial cliches, the report took a sharp turn, focusing for almost a full minute on Sam's showering habits:
The report drew immediate criticism on social media, both for its selectiveness (how many other rookies' shower habits are a story?) and its gaze too deep into the locker room.
But there's a larger issue here. For years, people who claim to know NFL culture have said that the locker room wouldn't accept a gay man. But within hours after the report aired, Rams teammate Chris Long shattered that myth with one eight-word tweet:
Dear ESPN,Everyone but you is over it.
— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) August 26, 2014
There you go. Sam's teammates, at least in the opinion of one of the locker room's leading figures, have accepted who he is and have moved on to the business of football.
UPDATE: ESPN issued the following statement: "In response to recent questions about Sam fitting in with the team, multiple Rams brought up the shower topic and we relayed that information as part of our reporting."
Sam survived roster cuts on Tuesday and is currently on the Rams' 75-man roster.
UPDATE II: On Wednesday morning, ESPN released the following statement. "ESPN regrets the manner in which we presented our report. Clearly yesterday we collectively failed to meet the standards we have set in reporting on LGBT-related topics in sports."