Michael Sam Suspension: His to Fix

We’ve heard it over and over again, Michael Sam was the first openly gay player drafted in the NFL when he was taken in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams in 2014. Yes, we understand Sam didn’t land a job out of training camp with the Rams and was cut from the Dallas Cowboys practice roster before making an appearance on Dancing With the Stars. It was indeed this same defensive end that signed with the Montreal Alouettes last month and was introduced in front of a media frenzy. But it was also the same player who was put on the Alouettes suspended list on Monday morning after he took a flight home to Galveston, Texas, for personal reasons. Amid much controversy and speculation, the Michael Sam suspension is his own situation to fix.

When the news was released last Friday that Sam had left Montreal and would not partake in their pre-season clash on Saturday, many were wondering if it was just a tiny personal issue at home, like the passing or illness or a family member or a more joyous celebration, like a wedding or birth. Three days following the departure, the Alouettes announced that Sam was listed on their suspended list, making this issue much more severe than others had thought.

Sam’s sudden departure from teams seems to be a recurring theme in his young, but popular professional football career that has lasted as long as zero games. He was cut from both the Cowboys and Rams but chooses to leave the Alouettes, and that begs to question; is he creating a negative image with poor off-the-field behaviour?

OK, you must be thinking “off-the-field behaviour” must have something to do with his sexuality, right? Not at all. Any player can misbehave off the field, gay or straight. Could it be that Sam believes he’s above everybody else because he chose to be the first openly gay football player? After three teams (he hasn’t left the Alouettes yet but it doesn’t seem he’ll come back) people can start pointing the finger at Sam himself, for not holding down a job. If another player is discriminating against Sam, the three teams would have cut the aggressor, not the victim.

Sam can’t forget that he is a rookie, he was a rookie in St. Louis & Dallas, and now he’s a rookie in Montreal. Rookies get hazed, rookies get taunted, rookies get excluded from certain activities, that’s how veterans introduce the rookies to the big leagues. If Sam is a victim of this hazing and decides to leave or reacts in a way poor enough to get cut, he should hang up his cleats.

Football, like any other sport, requires some mental strength for gruelling work days, on and off the field. Based on his three past stints and his participation in Dancing With the Stars, Sam needs to mature mentally before reaching his goal of playing professional football.

We’ve seen this too many times before, the hyped rookie who fails in the big leagues. Alexandre Daigle, Greg Oden, Tim Tebow, Jamarcus Russell and Tim Tebow are a few to come to mind- but at least they got some playing time before failing to reach their hype. The media has given him a reason to put himself on a pedestal and he currently sits on top of it. Sam has failed to endure through any football-related challenge which led to his cuts in the NFL and now, this current situation.

Of course, the situation can be completely unrelated to his attitude or his own problems, but it would be extremely doubtful that any employer would suspend an employee for at-home-issues, which seemed to be the reason why he left Montreal, originally. Jon Cornish has said that he knows a few players inside the Alouettes locker room that may feel uncomfortable with Sam’s sexuality, which could be the problem, but again, the Alouettes would have addressed any player that is homophobic against any of his team mates.

Sam is one fine football player, he can terrorize the CFL with his made-for-Canada size and athleticism. To get to where he wants, he needs to shut out the media’s hype and realize he is just a rookie and needs change his attitude to earn his spot on the team. Until then, this Michael Sam suspension is his to fix, and fast, as his football career may be in jeopardy.