On Friday night, it was announced that the Oprah Winfrey Network has indefinitely postponed a docu-series which was scheduled to chronicle the attempt by St. Louis Rams seventh round selection Michael Sam to become the NFL’s first openly gay player.
There seemed to be a lot of sketchy details regarding the planned television series. Though Sam’s agents and representatives had worked out the details with OWN shortly before the NFL Draft, they apparently failed to inform the Rams that it was going to take place before the team selected Sam. While the agents claimed that they had fully informed the NFL of the situation prior to the draft, a league representative later denied that claim, saying that the league did not know and OWN had not secured the right to use league brands or logos.
Worst of all, there seemed to be a large discrepancy over how much the series would affect the football team. While the show’s creators said that the production of the series would not take place at the team facility or hotel, there was a camera crew present for the Rams’ first rookie workout on Friday. While that’s not as much of an infringement as, say, taping team meetings or interviewing Sam’s teammates, it still made the distraction very visible right away. While there were apparently numerous complications to how the production crew, Sam, the Rams and the NFL planned to approach the situation, the camera crew being visible right away may have been the final straw.
Apparently Rams players were concerned by the thought of having the production of the series taking place around the team and had complained about it. After Sam had claimed as recently as Monday that he wanted to focus everything on football rather than turning himself into a public relations sideshow, these concerns were certainly reasonable. Having the player approve a camera crew to follow him around and create more drama seems to counteract his mission to find his proper role as a seventh-rounder and minimize distractions while he’s fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster.
That’s not at all to say that there won’t be media drama around Rams Park this summer anyway. There will still be national media coming to the facility whenever they’re permitted and obsessing over Sam’s every move. And if the recent speculation turns out to be true, HBO’s “Hard Knocks” may be all over the place, fully documenting the Rams’ training camp experience. Obviously with his unique circumstances and the national interest that he has created, Sam would be one of the main focuses of that program. At least with those media outlets, though, it won’t look like Sam is making it a point to bring more drama into the facility than there needs to be.
While it would have been nice to see firsthand how Sam dealt with the struggles of being the league’s first openly gay player, the decision to postpone the docu-series is ultimately for the best, as it eliminates an unnecessary distraction and allows the rookie defensive end to focus more exclusively on football. After all, if the producers were going to stay true to their word and avoid the team facility and hotel, it probably wouldn’t have been that much of an inside look anyway, as those two areas are where the players, particularly young ones, are going to spend the overwhelming majority of their time during training camp. Maybe if Sam becomes a more established player, then it will be more appropriate to do the documentary, but for now, avoiding it is probably the best decision for everyone involved.