By selecting Michael Sam in the 7th Round of the NFL Draft over the weekend, the St. Louis Rams have made the decision to take on the extra responsibility that goes along with it - much like the Dodgers did in 1947 when they signed Jackie Robinson. Like other teams, they’re getting a talented, young player they hope to sculpt into a star. But that’s where the similarities end. Like the Dodgers did with Jackie, the Rams must monitor the locker room culture extremely closely. You’d like to believe all of Sam’s teammates will welcome him with open arms and have his back in tough spots. Unfortunately, that may be wishful thinking. There will inevitably be guys who resent Sam. Not for being gay, but for being a distraction to their normal routines. The exhaustive questions from the media from the day training camp opens... Then, there are the rogue fans, who’ll yell epithets from the front row or the ones waiting when Sam steps off the team bus. Individually, Robinson had it exponentially tougher than Sam will. Plenty of ground has already been broken on gay rights. It was hardly that way for blacks in 1947. However, as an organization, the Rams have it worse than the Dodgers did. With the amount of media and its relentlessness, the St. Louis front office will log way more overtime hours than Brooklyn did 67 years ago.
Tom James is a 2-time Edward R. Murrow Award-winning sportscaster, who does play-by-play & studio work for the ESPN Family of Networks (including ESPN Wide World of Sports, ESPN3, college football, basketball, & a wide array of other sports), CBS Sports Network, Lax Sports Network, & Pro Watercross. Tom also hosts and produces sports documentaries & is part of the weekly regionally syndicated college football radio show, "Southern Pigskin Tonight."