By Ken Reed
Cyd Zeigler should’ve been a lawyer. He’d make a damn good one.
That said, he’s also a damn good journalist. And we’re lucky to have him in the sports world.
Zeigler recently built one of the most compelling cases on a sports issue I’ve ever seen.
The subject? Michael Sam and why he’s currently not with an NFL team.
Zeigler lays out his multifaceted argument as to why Sam — an openly gay football player who was named the SEC defensive player of the year following the 2013 season — is not on an NFL roster at this point.
“The reality of Sam’s 2014 season is this,” writes Zeigler.
“Not only did he never make an active roster last season, but after Week 7 he wasn’t even on a practice squad. Not only did he not make it back onto a practice squad, but he never even got a try-out. Teams can have players in for try-outs without signing them.
“Even more surprising, since the season ended he has not gotten a single phone call from a single team about a futures contract – a simple agreement that locks up the player for an interested team and doesn’t cost the team a dime. Not even a phone call.
“Since the season, 25 defensive ends have been signed to futures contracts by a total of 17 different teams. Sam is not one of them.”
Of all the past defensive players of the year from the power five conferences — Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Pac-12, Big 12 — since 1994, Sam is the only one of 89 players not to make an active roster his rookie season.
It’s hard to argue it was because of his preseason performance with the St. Louis Rams last season. According to Pro Football Focus, of their 70 top-ranked defensive ends from last preseason, Sam graded out at #45. Only three of the top 70 weren’t on an active roster, injured reserve or practice squad at the end of the season. Sam was one of those three. The others were an undrafted rookie free agent and an aging 33-year-old veteran.
Is it just bad luck? Is it Sam’s size, speed, strength? Zeigler debunks all the possible theories but one.
Hmm, could it be because he’s an openly gay football player?
“The answer to the question I’ve posed to so many – Why is Michael Sam not with an NFL team? – is also likely the most obvious one: because he’s openly gay,” writes Zeigler.
“Defensive ends with the same size and the same speed – yet with less production in college and the NFL preseason – are in the NFL and Sam is not because he’s gay and he just won’t stop being gay.
“Harsh, right? The reality of the 2014 NFL season for Sam was harsh. If he had never come out, he would be in the NFL right now, just like every player like him. After all of my conversations, after all of the reasons and rationalizations, after examining all of the facts, that’s the conclusion I’ve arrived at.”
Is anybody surprised that the NFL isn’t a very enlightened organization when it comes to civil rights, social justice and equal opportunity?
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered and got to know well, like Muhammad Ali, as well as his relationships with fellow sports journalists like Bob Costas and Howard Cosell.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #16 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Andrew Maraniss: Outstanding Author of Books That Focus On the Intersection of Sports, History and Social Justice.
Episode #15 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Psychology with Dr. Tim Rice. We discuss the growth of sports psychology at all levels, the positive impact that a number of high profile athletes have had by opening up, and the importance of everyone involved in sports caring for the whole athlete, mind and body.
Episode #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – Gary McCoy is a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations.
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon