The historic moment when Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams was captured by video cameras, which caught all the raw emotion of the moment when he became the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL.
Sam burst into tears, he sobbed — and then he did what other athletes do — he kissed and hugged his partner, Vito Cammisano, in a display of affection and joy. It was, as SI.com’s Richard Deitsch wrote, “unlike anything viewers had ever seen at an NFL draft and remarkable, honest television.” Not everyone agreed. Some expressed shock and anger. Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones was punished for tweeting “omg” and “horrible” in reaction. And, on Monday, former Ole Miss basketball player Marshall Henderson tweeted: “Boycotting sportscenter til this michael sam nasty [expletives] is off …. My brothers are 7 and 11 and saw that!!! #SICKENING.”
For producers making the call in the moment, there was no debate about how the network would cover the story and whether there might be a public display of affection. “When I got home last night and saw the attention [coverage was getting], it kind of threw me,” Seth Markman, who is in charge of ESPN’s draft coverage, told Lynn Elber, the Associated Press TV writer. “We’re a young production crew and quite honestly it was just another moment in the years we’ve done this. … In the truck, we were only saying, ‘Wow, this is great emotion here.’ No one stepped up and said, ‘Oh, wow, do we really want to be showing this?'”
The league-owned NFL Network had an agreement to show video taken by and first shown on ESPN, but there was no debate despite having a bit more time to consider.
“We had no discussion on the NFL Network side about how or how much or how little we would show, if or when Michael was selected,” Mike Muriano, NFL Network senior coordinating producer told the AP. “We were certainly not blind or deaf to the cultural significance. … We try to tap into that with all these kids.”