NFL Rumors: Saint Louis Rams Granted Request To Not Appear 'HBO Hard Knocks' If They Draft Michael Sam -- Did The NFL Rig The Draft Process?

The latest rumor spiraling around the NFL is accusing the St. Louis Rams (Now the Los Angeles Rams -- again) of drafting of Michael Sam just to avoid having themselves and him being featured on HBO's Hard Knocks series.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Sam, being the first openly gay active player in NFL history, was no more than a pawn in deal drafted between the NFL and the Rams Franchise.

The alleged conditions were for the Rams to draft Michael Sam, and they would become exempt from making an appearance on Hard Knocks in order to avoid the PR that would come with have an openly gay player on an NFL team -- as NFL coaches and teams hate distractions.

The source stems from a veteran NFL insider, Howard Balzer. In a report that Balzer wrote for St. Louis sports radio station, 590 The Fan, he specifically alleged that the conditions of the Rams drafting Michael Sam was to avoid appearing on HBO Hard Knocks.
"Shortly after his college career at Missouri ended, Sam came out publicly, acknowledging he is gay. The SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, Sam was considered a fifth-round pick at best. But, as the draft proceeded on the final day, it appeared he might not be drafted at all. It is believed the NFL didn't want to face questions about that eventuality..."
Balzer added that in order to avoid any negative press about the NFL not drafting the SEC co-defensive player of 2013, Michael Sam, the Rams were chosen as the last line of defense for grabbing the defensive player.

This was the initial conspiracy theory involving the NFL drafting Sam. Now, reports are claiming that the HBO Hard Knocks played a role in his selection.

The former St. Louis Rams were ideal because of St. Louis' proximity to the Mizzou campus, and the belief that head coach Jeff Fisher was best suited to handle any distractions that came with Sam.

Balzer's report also claims that Los Angeles Rams head coach, Fisher, has long opposed appearing on HBO's Hard Knocks anyway.

But nevertheless, the Rams will be featured on HBO's Hard Knocks as they settle into their new city without Michael Sam.

Sam Isn't Amused

Michael Sam himself has since tweeted about his role as a mere bargaining chip in the alleged agreement with the Rams not to have him featured on HBO's Hard Knocks series.
In an impromptu interview with Sam, he claimed that if he wasn't gay, then such scrutiny wouldn't have been held over his career.
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said this of the alleged agreement between the Rams and the NFL about Sam being drafted and not being featured on HBO Hard Knocks.
"I was really taken aback by those comments. It's insulting, from my standpoint, as it relates to Michael. 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?"
According to DeadSpin, the Rams reaching out to NFL officials to inquire about a deal drafting Sam to avoid appearing on HBO's Hard Knocks seems unlikely.

The only factor which makes it seem plausible is Fisher's reluctance for receiving any unwanted media attention to stay focused during training camp.

Before the HBO Hard Knocks and NFL deal, the Oprah Winfrey Network reached out to Sam and the Rams first for a documentary series which would have been filmed at the Rams camp.

The then-St. Louis Rams declined such offers, as well.

So, did the NFL scratch the St. Louis Rams' back for picking up Michael Sam 249th out of 256 in the 2014 draft by allowing them to not appear on HBO's Hard Knocks?

Do you think that the fate of Michael Sam's short NFL career was already written in stone before he was even selected?

[Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images]