With less than a week to go before NFL teams have to make final preseason roster cuts, Michael Sam is in a heated battle to earn a spot with the St. Louis Rams, the team that drafted him in the seventh round of May’s NFL Draft. ESPN, meanwhile, is focused on Sam’s shower habits — and whether his teammates are comfortable in the shower with the guy who is trying to become the league’s first openly gay player.
During an afternoon SportsCenter broadcast, ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported that an anonymous Rams player told her that “Sam is respecting our space” when it comes to the shower, perhaps waiting so as not to make some of his teammates feel uncomfortable. Two other players who actually put their name to statements — defensive tackle Kendall Langford and linebacker Alec Ogletree — told Anderson that they “weren’t tracking” Sam’s shower habits, which seems like the natural response to such a question.
Watch the segment (via Cork Gaines):
The segment did not go over well with Rams defensive end Chris Long, who tweeted:
Patrick Burke, co-founder of the You Can Play Project, found the segment similarly problematic:
The ESPN segment, as Burke and Long both insinuated, had the air of a report seeking to make a story where there was none, and putting it on TV and granting whichever player made the original remark anonymity are both odd journalistic choices, especially because Sam has been a member of the Rams since May and in camp for a month at this point. Of course, that’s not to say all questions about how Sam is fitting into the locker room — or the showers — are bad ones. David Fleming, in fact, last month produced a phenomenal piece on how concerns about Sam’s presence in the locker room shower were overblown, and how his Rams teammates — Long included — weren’t having any problems welcoming him. It was published, interestingly enough, in ESPN The Magazine.