Michael Sam's OWN Documentary Series Put on Hold
Many fans were unhappy by news that the OWN network was trailing Michael Sam, the first openly-gay football player to be drafted to to NFL, for a reality series for the fall. News that the show has been postponed will go some way to assuaging fears that Sam had been sidetracked into profiting from his brand before he'd established his career.
“After today's meeting with the Rams, we collectively feel it is best to postpone the project,” said Sam’s rep, Cameron Weiss. “This will allow for Michael to have a total focus on football, and will ensure no distractions to his teammates. Everybody involved remains committed to this project and understands its historical importance as well as its positive message.”
To some observers, news that Sam had signed a deal with OWN for a "docu-series" by the same team responsible for a Lindsay Lohan reality show, undermined the impact of the kiss he gave his partner, Vito Cammisano. "Sam just pissed away a whole lot of the goodwill he'd built up for himself these past few months," wrote Deadspin's Drew Magary. "Now that Sam has a reality show, can anyone believe with 100 percent confidence that the kiss he shared with his boyfriend on camera last Saturday was a real and true moment? They probably had a dress rehearsal." (As it happens, the crew was on hand in San Diego with Sam when his kiss was broadcast by ESPN).
There may be solid reasons for signing a deal with OWN. Pressure to make the most of his moment in the sun will have been intense. As a late-round pick, Sam is not guaranteed to make the Rams team, and the career of NFL players is short. A TV show scheduled for the fall could have helped sustain Sam's profile, while continuing to inspire others to follow his example.
Then again, reality TV (even one described as a "documentary series") carries the whiff of desperation and grandstanding. It conjures images of Johnny Weir, Ozzy Osbourne, and Nicole Richie. It's probably wise that Sam has decided to postpone.