People Think Michael Sam Would Make a Good Player for the Patriots
After Missouri defensive end and NFL prospect Michael Sam publicly came out as a gay, there was the predictable suggestion that the league remains unready for the “distraction” its first gay player would create. Several coaches and executives spoke anonymously with Sports Illustrated to offer blunt opinions on how Sam’s admission would hurt his position in the draft.
“I just know with this going on this is going to drop him down,” a veteran NFL scout is quoted telling SI. “There’s no question about it. It’s human nature. Do you want to be the team to quote-unquote ‘break that barrier?'”
Well, actually, a lot of commentary this week suggests that the New England Patriots might want to be that team, or at the least, they wouldn’t mind it if it benefited them. The strongest signal came from Patriots owner Bob Kraft, himself, who told the Boston Herald:
Anyone who can come in here and help us win, I personally don’t care what their ethnic background is, their racial background, the gender preference. If they can help us win, and they’re about team first, then I’m happy to have him here.
Bill Belichick’s comments were slightly more…Belichickian in their opacity. “We evaluate all the players, including Michael Sam, based on the totality of who they are and who can best contribute to our team and organization, regardless of the matters being discussed today,” he said in a statement.
Belichick, of course, hates media frenzy and “distraction,” which are inevitabilities many people cite as a reason NFL teams might stay away from Sam. But that doesn’t mean Belichick doesn’t bring that stuff on himself anyway. He put the Mother-of-All-Press-Frenzies, Tim Tebow, on his roster, after all, and the stonewalling press conference that ensued is a classic of the form. As NBC Sports’s Mike Florio puts it, “The Patriots want to win, and they know how to absorb potential distractions without distractions occurring.”
Finally, there’s Tom Brady, who hasn’t said anything, but who most people assume has the clout to provide a top-down example of tolerance for a gay player in the locker room.
There are the more practical considerations that might make Sam a good fit with the Patriots. His draft prospects have taken a hit, but not because of his football-playing. If you don’t buy the whole “gay player will destroy the delicate ecosystem of a locker room” theory, that makes him an undervalued prospect. ESPN’s Mike Reiss writes, “If Bill Belichick thought Sam could help the Patriots win, and he represented the oft-stated ‘value pick’ when he was available, I don’t think he’d hesitate to draft him or sign him after the draft.”
That’s still an “if.” The Patriots might have other plans for their draft picks. But if New England is the team to make NFL history, don’t be too surprised.