The only reason the St. Louis Rams drafted out football player Michael Sam is that the NFL told the team that it could avoid appearing on an HBO series about NFL training camps that year, St. Louis–based sportswriter Howard Balzer reports.
In a blog post for St. Louis radio station KFNS, Balzer writes that the NFL considered the Rams the best team to draft Sam because of how close St. Louis is to Sam's alma mater, the University of Missouri. The head coach of the Rams was trusted with the "ability to deal with whatever distractions there might be," Balzer reports. If Sam had not been drafted after coming out, it would have been embarrassing to the league, he writes.
It's been two years since Sam was drafted by the Rams, and the team is now doing a favor for the NFL, Balzer writes, by agreeing to be on HBO's Hard Knocks this summer.
"What’s somewhat odd, but understandable in light of the revelation, is that the Rams are now embracing the intrusion of HBO’s cameras in a year in which the distractions and logistics of the move [the team is moving to Los Angeles] will be a challenge for the organization, coaches and players," Balzer writes. "Especially since Rams head coach Jeff Fisher has consistently been opposed to having his team on the show."
The team was eligible to be on the HBO show in 2014, when Sam was drafted, but Fisher said at the time it was "highly unlikely" the franchise would be chosen because of the buzz surrounding Sam. "I think this organization has a right to go through training camp with some normalcy," he said in 2014.
Not that the 2014 season was exactly normal. There were many press conferences and reporters following the team after Sam's seventh-round pick. Team members were even asked about showering with Sam.
Fisher denies there was such an arrangement between the Rams and the NFL. When asked about it, he told NBC Sports, "That in itself is absolutely absurd, it's 100 percent incorrect. I was really taken aback by those comments. It's insulting, from my standpoint, as it relates to Michael. We had three seventh-round picks. When we drafted Michael he was the best player on the board. Who in their right mind would think that you give up a draft choice to avoid doing something like that?"
The allegation, he added, is "really not fair to Michael because of all the hard work he put in.”
Sam, though, appears to give some credence to the report. He tweeted about the news, saying, "I'm not surprised at all."
I'm not surprised at all https://t.co/wGnyFpuIVP
— Michael Sam (@MichaelSam52) March 23, 2016
Watch the report below.