The Oprah Winfrey Network is doing a documentary series on St. Louis Rams rookie defensive end Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL, and Sam's agent said the filmmakers won't be shooting any footage at the Rams' facility.
There has been no public announcement from the Rams about the documentary.
Sam's agent, Cameron Weiss, was on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" show Thursday and said, "OWN's cameras would never be able to go to the Rams' facility to be inside the locker room, to get on the field, because nobody has those rights besides the NFL." Weiss was asked if the filmmakers had even asked to shoot at the Rams' facility and said, "It wasn't asked at all. We wouldn't put the Rams in that position."
ESPN.com reported that Weiss, as well as Sam's publicist, Howard Bragman, are part of the team of producers for the documentary, which is expected to run in six to eight parts.
Weiss said the idea behind the documentary was to capture "Mike's personal reactions, and not even on his training days (but) on his off days away from the team -- things that give us insight to his private and personal life, and into his journey, and what's going on inside of his head."
Sam has said he wants to be known as a football player, not as a gay football player, but on the face of it, that the documentary will focus on him off the field would seem to reinforce the "gay football player" storyline. Indeed, it's folly to think it won't.
"Obviously, we all know there are going to be certain outlets and people that aren't going to treat him as just a football player, and we view it as important for people to see what this individual is going through," Weiss said. "It's something that will probably never be replicated and has the potential to change lives. Now, is that Mike that's going out there and doing that, or is it the story that's being told by OWN and the trust that we're putting in Oprah and the things that she's done at her network? I think you have your answer right there."
Weiss also said, "There's always pro and cons when you're talking about a decisions like this."
That Sam has publicly announced his sexual orientation means this could be fascinating viewing from a sociological standpoint. He is a trailblazer who receives intense scrutiny, and as Weiss said, this does have the potential to change lives and is something that's never going to be repeated. Still, the danger is that the "gay football player" storyline will overshadow everything else. While Sam had a big season in 2013 at Missouri, he was not a prime draft prospect because of his lack of athleticism. He's in for a tough fight to make the Rams' roster because of their plethora of talented defensive players. There definitely is going to have to be some kind of balancing act done by Sam in terms of his public persona vis-à-vis his fight for a job.
"We know the magnitude of the journey," Weiss said. "Mike's No. 1 goal is, of course, to make the roster. And the (documentary) team we put in place is absolutely going to respect that. ... No one's going to complicate the journey for Mike if at all possible."
Weiss also said that shooting already has begun and that "we've given them a very flexible shooting schedule to not interfere with training camp."
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.