Veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer claimed Wednesday that the Los Angeles Rams struck a deal with the NFL in 2014 to avoid being featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks" show if the team drafted Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to enter the draft.
Sources say NFL agreed not to have Rams on Hard Knocks in 2014 if they drafted Michael Sam.— Howard Balzer (@HBalzer721) March 23, 2016
Balzer later published an article on 590 The Fan in which he defended his claims and delved deeper into the story surrounding the then St. Louis Rams' drafting of Sam.
"At the time, the Rams were hailed for being progressive and drafting the first openly gay player in the National Football League," Balzer wrote. "It turns out, according to multiple sources, that the league agreed not to ask the Rams to appear that year on HBO’s yearly summer series, HARD KNOCKS, if they drafted Sam."
"The SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, Sam was considered a fifth-round pick at best. But, as the draft proceeded on the final day, it appeared he might not be drafted at all," Balzer continued. "It is believed the NFL didn’t want to face questions about that eventuality ... So it was that the Rams saved the day, selecting Sam with the 249th pick of a 256-player draft."
The NFL has since revealed that the now Los Angeles-based Rams will be featured this summer on the "Hard Knocks" show.
Sam himself responded to Balzer's initial tweet, saying that this information did not surprise him "at all."
I'm not surprised at all https://t.co/wGnyFpuIVP— Michael Sam (@Michael Sam) 1458766031.0
Shortly after his draft in 2014, Sam was cut by the Rams before the beginning of the 2014 regular season, WCBS-TV. The Dallas Cowboys then signed him onto its practice squad, where he lasted for only seven weeks. Although Sam said this January that he will give the NFL "one more shot," he stated in November that he wished he hadn't been drafted by the Rams.
"If I had my way, I really do wish I went undrafted,” Sam said, according to WCBS. "I could have actually went to a team who really needed pass rush, and needed a defensive end who could pass rush the quarterback. But the Rams, even though I learned a log from Chris Long and [Robert] Quinn, I think that I could have done better being on an active roster right now if I went to a different team."
Although Sam signed a deal with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League in 2015, he only played one game with the team before he left for mental health reasons.
The last 12 months have been very difficult for me, to the point where I became concerned with my mental health. Because of this I am 1/3— Michael Sam (@Michael Sam) 1439595040.0
going to step away from the game at this time. I thank the Alouettes for this opportunity and hope to be back on the field soon. Thank 2/3— Michael Sam (@Michael Sam) 1439595079.0
you all for your understanding and support. 3/3— Michael Sam (@Michael Sam) 1439595104.0
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