Michael Sam’s reaction to being drafted by the St. Louis Rams -- and, thus, becoming the first openly gay player in NFL history -- was real, raw and emotional.
FOR THE RECORD
An earlier version of this post incorrectly said Michael Sam was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals.
And, for some people, it was too much. At least too much to be aired on national TV.
With just eight picks remaining in the entire draft, Sam received the phone call he had been waiting three days to get. He broke down in tears, so much so that he could barely stand up.
Another man rushed to comfort the SEC defensive player of the year out of Missouri. When the call was over, the two men embraced and kissed several times. ESPN, the network covering the draft, broadcast the scene without interruption.
ESPN producer Seth Markman said it was consistent with the network’s coverage of the event for more than 30 years, during which it has shown plenty of players kissing their girlfriends after receiving the big news.
“We’re there to document the moment, not make a political statement,” Markman said.
While reactions to the scene were mixed, some people, including a couple of people with NFL ties, took to Twitter to express their displeasure. Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones tweeted “OMG” and “Horrible,” presumably in response to the on-air kiss. The tweets have since been deleted.
The Dolphins have fined Jones an undisclosed amount and excused him from all team activities until he completes training related to his comments. Jones has since issued an apology.
Retired NFL running back Derrick Ward also tweeted his displeasure with the televised kiss: “I’m sorry but that Michael Sam is no bueno for doing that on national tv. I’m fine with it being a new day in age but for him to do that on National tv is disgusting. Gay or not. Man U got little kids lookin at the draft. I can’t believe ESPN even allowed that to happen.”
Ward has since tweeted that he and his children have received death threats for his comments and emphasizes that he would have reacted the same had it been a man and woman behaving the same way on national TV.