Michael Sam is Gay and the NFL Team That Drafts Him Will Face Major Litigation Exposure

MICHAEL SAM IS GAY. He also is an All-American and SEC DefensiveAll-American and SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Michael Sam, is gay and wants to play in the NFL. Sam told the world Sunday night during his interview with Chris Connelly of ESPN’s Outside The Lines that he’s a proud gay man. [video interview and podcast below]

For the record, I’m proud of Sam for coming out before the draft. I also believe that barring injuries, he will make history and become the first openly gay player drafted in the NFL.

Here’s the challenge for any team drafting Sam. The NFL has a strict workplace policy that specifically prohibits discrimination of any kind. The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement clearly states, “There will be no discrimination in any form against any player by the NFL, the Management Council, any Club or by the NFLPA because of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or activity or lack of activity on behalf of the NFLPA.”

While I support Sam and am proud of what he’s doing, I fear that many NFL teams thinking about drafting Sam will feel they may be exposing themselves to major lawsuits and as such, avoid including him in the selection process. I say this because for as many NFL players that are tolerant and understanding, it’s being reported that there are just as many players who will target Sam for being gay.

If you don’t think the liability factor comes into play in this situation then you’re just being naive and kidding yourself. In his recent CNN article, reporter Mike Freeman, reports that according to another NFL player, Sam “would be targeted by players on the field and fans off of it.”

This same player reportedly pointed out to Freeman what happened to former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe. While denied by the Vikings, Kluwe alleges one of the reasons he was released was because of his open comments supporting gay rights and issues.

Further support of the reality of problems that might result in legal ramifications and big damages are confirmed by what New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma was once quoted as saying. In an interview on the topic, Vilma told a reporter,

“I think that he would not be accepted as much as we think he would be accepted, I don’t want people to just naturally assume, like, ‘Oh, we’re all homophobic.’ That’s really not the case. Imagine if he’s the guy next to me and, you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me. How am I supposed to respond?”

If Sam is drafted and signed by an NFL team, the team will be legally responsible under the NFL’s workplace policy and collective bargaining agreement to make sure Sam’s legal rights are not violated. Discriminatory conduct directed towards Sam, because he is gay, will expose an NFL team’s administration, coaching staff and even the employee players on the team to both state and federal lawsuits and potential record damages.

I’m rooting for Sam to get drafted in the first or second round and making the roster of an NFL team. He was brave enough to stand up and come out as a proud gay man. Now, despite the very real liability exposure, I’d like to see an NFL team be brave enough to draft Sam welcome him with open arms.

What do you think? If you owned an NFL team would you draft Sam? Please share your comments below or on Twitter!

Here is Monday’s Spreecast with Fox Sports Commentator, Seth Everett, where Seth and I talk about Michael Sam and related issues at the Olympics. Click on the image to watch the interview

  • http://jacksonandwilson.com/ Mitch Jackson

    Update: While taking my son to school this morning we were listening to the Dan Patrick show. They were talking about NFL general managers and owners anonymously expressing concerns about unwanted publicity and media frenzy issues affecting Sam’s draft or, possibly resulting in him not being drafted.

    Really? An NFL team is too worried about getting more publicity and attention? Again, I stand firm that the real reason some NFL teams will not draft Sam is because they feel he will increase their liability exposure re issues involving an employer providing an employee a safe work place (free of discrimination). NFL teams are in the business of maximizing profits and minimizing liabilities. Think Richie Incognito- Jonathan Martin-Miami Dolphins.

    To be clear, I’m in favor of Sam coming out and entering the NFL draft. Now I’d like to see NFL owners embrace what just happened and help create an environment where this kind of thing is old hat and doesn’t even make the news.

    Here’s a legal question to think about. What if an NFL team passed on drafting Sam specifically because he was gay. Would that open up the team to a lawsuit?

  • http://jacksonandwilson.com/ Mitch Jackson

    Update 02-14-14: Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito Investigation Report Released http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1960345-jonathan-martin-richie-incognito-investigation-report-released

    In summary and according Mike Chiari’s article on the CNN website, the Report concludes that three starters on the Dolphins offensive line, Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey, engaged in a pattern of harassment directed at not only Jonathan Martin, but also another young Dolphins offensive lineman and an

    assistant trainer. The Report finds that the assistant trainer repeatedly was the object of racial slurs and other racially derogatory language; that the other offensive lineman was subjected to homophobic name-calling and improper

    physical touching; and that Martin was taunted on a persistent basis with sexually explicit remarks about his sister and his mother and at times ridiculed with racial insults and other offensive comments.

  • http://spiritnewsdaily.com/ Donovan Moore

    Imagine that, a personal injury lawyer that sees opportunity to sue, when others see something good. very sad.

    • http://jacksonandwilson.com/ Mitch Jackson

      Hi Donovan- I’m glad Sam came out and if you read my article you would appreciate the fact that I’m rooting for him. Having said that, there are interesting issues that will arise and which are addressed in the post. Do you think an NFL team will take any of these issues into consideration? Especially after the now confirmed $17+ million in exposure the Miami Dolphins are now faced with?

  • http://jacksonandwilson.com/ Mitch Jackson

    [Update May 10, 2014] Michael Sam drafted by the Rams. Good luck Michael. Wishing you a long and successful career in the NFL! Details here http://espn.go.com/nfl/draft2014/story/_/id/10913755/2014-nfl-draft-michael-sam-drafted-st-louis-rams-seventh-round