Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player, will never get the chance to play a regular season NFL game – at least not for the St. Louis Rams. According to an ABC News report, the St. Louis Rams cut Michael Sam today, putting him on waivers as of 4 P.M. Eastern Standard Time.
Normally, a player chosen by the last team in the seventh round doesn’t make much of a splash when his team cuts him. The last NFL draft pick of any given year – nicknamed “Mr. Irrelevant,” isn’t generally expected to make the team. If Michael Sam had not come out of the closet shortly before the NFL draft, it’s unlikely that we would even be talking about him right now.
All that said, Michael Sam did relatively well in the preseason. He sacked fellow rookie Johnny Manziel of the Cleveland Browns twice – a feat he is quick to point out that he also accomplished at the collegiate level. In the end, however, he narrowly missed the cut as the St. Louis Rams opted to keep undrafted free agent Ethan Westbrooks to fill the team’s ninth defensive lineman spot on the roster.
The Rams’ selection of Michael Sam was a bit of a head scratcher to begin with, not because of Sam’s sexual orientation, but because their team was already stacked with talent on the defensive line. While most teams don’t expect to keep their seventh round draft choice into the regular season anyway – barring an out-of-this-world performance in the preseason – it’s odd that the Rams would choose a player who was bound to bring a high degree of media attention while still having little chance of making the team.
Sam’s preseason performance included three sacks and 11 tackles, including a team-high six tackles in the final preseason game. Certainly a solid performance, but not so stellar that most teams would keep a seventh round pick who plays a position they already have well covered. If Michael Sam had not come out of the closet, chances are this is the last anyone would hear of him. Given the circumstances, however, it’s entirely likely that we’ll still be talking about how he may have been discriminated against (a la Tim Tebow) for several seasons to come.
There is some good news for Michael Sam in all of this. If the NFL’s first gay player isn’t picked up by another NFL team, the Rams have suggested that they would like to sign him to their 10-man practice squad. That would keep him in the league, though the chances of him finding his way back onto the field for a regular season game for the Rams are extremely slight because – as previously noted – the Rams are stacked on their defensive line.
What do you think? Should the St. Louis Rams have cut Michael Sam – and why or why not?