An NFL reporter claims the St. Louis Rams made a deal with the league to draft Michael Sam in 2104, to avoid being featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks. According to Howard Balzer, the Rams qualified to be on the show but wanted a slither of “normalcy” while preparing for the season, as signing Sam — the NFL’s first openly gay player — brought a good amount of press to the team.
The Rams are currently readying a return to Los Angeles, and will now be chronicled on an upcoming installment of the HBO dock-series, it was announced Wednesday (March 23).
It’s been almost two years since the St. Louis Rams selected defensive end Michael Sam in the seventh round of the 2014 draft. At the time, the Rams were hailed for being progressive and drafting the first openly gay player in the National Football League. 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.
Shortly after his college career at Missouri ended, Sam came put publicly, acknowledging he is gay. 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. It is believed the NFL didn’t want to face questions about that eventuality, and the Rams were viewed as the ideal spot because of St. Louis’ proximity to the Missouri campus in Columbia, 90 miles away, and head coach Jeff Fisher’s ability to deal with whatever distractions there might be.
So it was that the Rams saved the day, selecting Sam with the 249th pick of a 256-player draft. Now, they have returned the favor.
Two years later, the Rams are now in Los Angeles, and as the annual league meeting closed Wednesday, in one of the earliest announcements ever, the NFL revealed that the Rams will be the featured team this summer on HARD KNOCKS.
It’s no surprise the league wants to showcase the return to a market that has been without a team since 1994. 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 will be a challenge for the organization, coaches and players. Especially since Rams head coach Jeff Fisher has consistently been opposed to having his team on the show.
If Balzer’s allegations are true, it appears that Fisher (head coach for the Rams) changed his mind about being on Hard Knocks. “This is an exciting time for our franchise,” he said.“Hark Knocks will be an outstanding way to bring our fans into our training camp and preseason, and give a glimpse of the hard work and dedication of our players, coaches and staff as we prepare for the 2016 season.”
Deadspin noted that it’s long been speculated that the Rams’ motivation for drafting Sam wasn’t his athletic skills, it was basically a favor so the NFL wouldn’t look like it was discriminating against him.
Fisher has already refuted Balzer’s report.“It’s 100% incorrect,” he said according to the Los Angeles Times.“I was really taken aback by those comments. It’s insulting, from my standpoint, as it relates to Michael.”
Sam was drafted because he was “the best player on the board,” added Fisher. Yet Sam believes Balzer.