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 #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
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Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
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.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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