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Michael Sam Weighs in on Weak Rumors that St. Louis Rams Draft him to Avoid ‘Hard Knocks’

Earlier this week, rumors surfaced suggesting that the St. Louis Rams drafted Missouri linebacker Michael Sam, the first openly-gay player in the NFL, in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft as part of a deal with the NFL to avoid participation in HBO’s Hard Knocks series that same year.

Of course, Sam and Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher took polar opposite sides on the issue.

“That in itself is absolutely absurd, it’s 100 percent incorrect,” said Fisher in an interview on Mike & Mike. “We had three seventh-round picks. When we drafted Michael, he was the best player on the board. Who in their right mind would think that you give up a draft choice to avoid doing something like that?”

It is pretty well documented that Fisher was the one who suggested to President Kevin Demoff and GM Les Snead to go out and grab Sam. Fisher then broke the news to owner Stan Kroenke, who was on board. So unless this deal with the NFL was so secretive that only Fisher knew about it, the whole situation seems unlikely.

If anything, maybe the Rams sought to make a deal with the league ex post facto. Sam was possible the most covered and controversial seventh-round pick of all time, so the Rams may have felt entitled to some benefit stemming from the media coverage they received between drafting and cutting the former college star.

“Not surprised that the NFL had a deal with the Rams,” said Sam upon hearing about the rumor. “Makes sense to me why they cut me and not Ethan Westbrooks even though I outperformed him in our production. Makes sense why Coach Fisher was very vague the day he cut me from the team.”

The NFL decided to simply refer the media to Fisher’s statements instead of saying anything themselves. Howard Balzer, who originally broke the story, citing a few anonymous sources, stands by his accusations.

“The denials are not surprising,” said Balzer. “The Rams’ choices were to acknowledge the report was accurate, which wasn’t going to happen; say nothing, which would be a tacit admission; or deny, deny, deny. And that’s what they did.”

Obviously, the Rams and the NFL wouldn’t come out and say that they colluded on the drafting of Sam; however, Balzer is going to have to do a little better if he wants to convince the general public of his story. Sure, everyone wants to believe it, but we cannot buy into every 9/11 conspiracy out there.

I’ve heard dozens of rumors on why the Rams and Dallas Cowboys cut Michael Sam, why he couldn’t make it with the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League, and why a professional football comeback for him would be nearly impossible for him at this point. I don’t know what to believe.

It’s the 21st century, so I don’t buy into the whole “locker room distraction thing.” I don’t believe for a second that the majority of players would be uncomfortable. Sure, some will, but you’ll have that anywhere. And, let’s be honest, the Rams received more coverage than usual with Sam on the roster, but it was nothing compared to what quarterback Tim Tebow used to draw.

Maybe he’s an attitude problem? After all, that’s about the only thing that would keep an All-SEC linebacker from making it in the NFL, never mind the CFL. His old Missouri roommate said he hadn’t been the same person since his announcement. But, to be fair, if I got interviewed by Oprah, it would probably go to my head too.

What Sam did took a lot of courage, and I commend him for it. Same goes for former NBA player Jason Collins. I just hope that we, as a society, can evolve to a point where a player’s choices off the field (provided they are legal) don’t matter. Because, honestly, I don’t care what race, sexual orientation, or blood type you are—whether or not you can catch a football is all that matters.

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