BOSTON (CBS) – Just like Jackie Robinson broke down the color barrier in the MLB in 1947, Michael Sam is poised to break the NFL’s sexuality barrier in 2014 by becoming the first openly gay player in the sport’s history.
Even though society has moved towards a more progressive stance on this issue the same cannot be said for NFL locker rooms.
Rightly or wrongly, that’s the reality.
So for teams thinking about drafting the All-American there’s an inherent understanding that they’ll take the media circus that comes with him, and what team is best equipped to handle a situation like that than the New England Patriots?
“Bill Belichick is exactly the kind of guy that this kid needs,” said Tony Massarotti Monday afternoon. “If Belichick believes in the kid as a football player he’ll [draft him].”
As far as whether Belichick believes in distractions it’s clear that he doesn’t just given his track record. And the reason he doesn’t believe in distractions is because he never lets anything become one (see Aaron Hernandez, Tim Tebow, etc).
Michael Felger wonders if Belichick would be able to put out this fire as well.
“I think Belichick has a better chance to do it than anyone else does,” said Mazz.
Felger referenced an article by Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel, where he quoted a number of NFL executives saying that Sam’s homosexuality will drop his draft stock, and teams will be hesitant to be that “barrier-breaker.”
Tony Massarotti hates that line of thinking.
“If you believe in the player, and it’s the right kind of player then yes – rock the boat. Bill Belichick is exactly the kind of guy who would because he’s anti-authority, particularly as it pertains to the NFL,” said Mazz.
The statements made by the anonymous executives in the Pete Thamel article have drawn a lot of criticism for their perceived close-mindedness, but Felger understands where they’re coming from.
“I don’t think it’s unreasonable for teams to not wanna invite that situation into their locker room, and I don’t mean his sexual orientation – I mean the media coverage and pressure and all that. All due respect I don’t follow the NFL, and I don’t root for the Packers or the Patriots because I want them to break barriers. I want my social leaders to do that, my politicians to do that, my religious leaders to do that. I don’t care about breaking social barriers. If they win a championship, and in so doing break a social barrier then great.”
Felger thinks a number of factors will determine where Sam ends up.
It would have to be a team from a progressive city (like Boston, New York or San Francisco) and not one in the south (like Carolina, Jacksonville or Texas). It would also have to a team whose coach has some level of job security. No coach would invite this situation into their locker room unless they had a solid resume and team.
Given those factors Tony Mazz thinks New England is the right team and place for Michael Sam – what do you think?
Listen below for the full discussion: