The right message


I say this as a supporter of Michael Sam, I say it as a reformed homophobe, I say it as someone who believes the equality of black and brown people is connected to the equality and freedom granted to gays and lesbians:

Michael Sam's decision to do a "documentary series" -- reality TV show -- on the Oprah Winfrey Network is a gigantic tactical error for Sam and his supporters within the LGBT community.

America, for the most part, would wrap its arms around Michael Sam, the gay, underdog football player fighting to find his place in the NFL. America, for the most part, will reject Michael $am, the gay, in-your-face political/media pawn using the NFL as a platform to launch his celebrity brand.

Michael $am contradicts Michael Sam, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year who repeatedly swore he just wanted to focus on football, not his sexuality.

Oprah and her foundering TV network do not care about X's and O's. They care about salacious and sensational human drama and the kind of XOXOXs that take place in the bedroom. For context, OWN is the documentary-series home for Lindsay Lohan, the child actress-turned-serial drug-rehabber.   That is not written to suggest OWN does not do and aspire to do high-end TV journalism (Lance Armstrong interview). It's written to imply that even Oprah's standards cave to the demands of Nielsen ratings.

Michael $am undermines the credibility of Michael Sam.

It all feels orchestrated now: the draft-day kiss; the cake-covered face; the tears; the celebration that conveniently captured just Sam, his boyfriend and his two agents; and even the "Stand with Sam" T-shirts selling on

Who knew a reality TV show was being filmed? Who knew Sam's agents (Cameron Weiss and Joe Barkett) and publicist (Howard Bragman) had cut deals to be producers on the reality TV show?

This is all scripted and amateur. And devious, too.

Michael Sam, the football player, is being used ... by everyone. Weiss, Barkett and Bragman are cashing in. Oprah is hoping an attachment to the NFL can breathe life into her network the way the league does for CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN. The LGBT movement appears to be more concerned with Sam advancing the cause than making the roster. And, yes, the cause is more important than football. But playing football advances the cause a lot more than Real World St. Louis.

On Wednesday morning, before the announcement of the reality show, I interviewed Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of, about the male-male   kiss. I was planning to write a column that would discuss how parents should talk to their kids about Sam and the kiss.

"I'm so glad [ESPN] broadcasted it," Zeigler said. "I hope they broadcast it 100 times a day for the 100 days. We have been protecting kids far too long from themselves. There are kids 7 or 8 years old who realize they are gay, and they've been raised in the world that has told them for 7 or 8 years that it is either wrong or certainly not how they're supposed to be.

"The faster parents can tell their kids, the more lives those parents are going to save."

I get it. I understand the urgency.

But Sam has to play in the NFL to be an effective role model and pioneer. He has to fit into a locker room environment before he can transform that environment.

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