The handsome football player gets drafted by a NFL team, plants an emotional kiss on his sweetheart and gives sportscasts a feel-good video clip. A sobbing Michael Sam celebrated his selection by the St. Louis Rams by hugging and kissing his boyfriend, making it real and physical that an openly gay athlete had taken an unprecedented step toward an NFL career.
For ESPN and the NFL Network, which carried and repeatedly aired the scene, it was business as usual. Producer Seth Markman, who oversees NFL draft coverage for ESPN, said that in the extensive preparation for Sam’s possible draft, “we never had one discussion about, ‘What if he’s drafted, his partner’s there and they kiss?’ Honestly, it never came up.”
He suggested a possible generational split over how much it matters.
“When I got home last night and saw the attention (it was receiving), it kind of threw me,” he said. “We’re a young production crew and quite honestly it was just another moment in the years we’ve done this.”
The same holds true for the NFL Network, which had an agreement to show the video taken by ESPN at the San Diego home of Sam’s agent and first aired by Disney-owned ESPN.
“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,” said Mike Muriano, NFL Network senior coordinating producer.
If the display of affection had been edited by ESPN, Markman said, it would have been inconsistent with more than three decades of draft-day coverage that includes a long string of players kissing their girlfriends.