While Michael Sam figures to become the NFL's first openly gay player this fall, provided the former Missouri defensive end and mid-to-late-round draft prospect makes a team, he has no plans to invest much, if any, time in using his platform as a future professional athlete as an activist for gay rights.
An outsports.com feature which details the preparations that were made for Sam's announcement on Sunday, beginning with his choice of agents about a month ago, raised the point that Sam's immediate focus will be on football.
"Michael is a football player, not an activist," said his publicist, Howard Bragman. "If you start showing up at too many dinners and too many parades, you start to send the message to a potential team about his priorities. The community wins when he steps onto an NFL field and plays in a game, not as the grand marshal of a pride parade. He may do that eventually, but the first year needs to be all about football."
To that end, Sam's next opportunity to impress scouts and NFL personnel executives will come at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Feb. 19-25. He was invited as a defensive end, his college position, even though he is expected to move to a rush linebacker role in the NFL. Defensive ends and linebackers both go through combine workouts on Feb. 24.
According to the Outsports story, the fact that Sam's professional sports career is still in its fledgling stage was a factor in the decision to avoid activism initially.
"While other athletes like Jason Collins and Robbie Rogers have been readily available to lend their voices to various LGBT organizations, that won't happen with Sam. He's at the beginning of his career, not the middle or end like Rogers and Collins," wrote Cyd Zeigler. "Trying to get drafted, make a roster and step foot on an NFL field in September is a big task. His role in the movement toward LGBT equality in sports will be simply playing the sport as an out gay man -- a role many have been waiting years for someone to step into. Bragman reached out to various organizations to make that message clear. They all agreed."
NFL clubs might be less likely to consider Sam's sexual orientation a potential locker-room distraction if he has no intention of being an activist. Although as Bragman noted, that choice may apply only to year one of his NFL career.