You know what makes me angry? When a wrestling company puts something else above the industry.
I get that there are stockholders to answer to, and WWE Network subscription numbers to explain away. I’m well aware that WWE Raw is getting ready to face it biggest competition in the coming weeks with Monday Night Football
But no excuse justifies WWE hitching a ride on the Michael Sam media circus.
Throughout an insufferable edition of WWE Raw this past Monday, Michael Cole hyped that “Michael Sam has been invited to Monday Night Raw next week to tell HIS side of the story!” In case you aren’t aware, Michael Sam was cut from the St. Louis Rams over the weekend – not for being openly gay (despite what Cole would have you believe), but for being a fairly insignificant draft prospect.
Just to clarify: I didn’t say Sam was bad. Just that he’s not much better than any other “pretty darn good” player who could just as easily warm an NFL bench.
Why didn’t WWE invite any OTHER cut player? Because Michael Sam is the only openly gay one and, as such, the only one with more Twitter followers than SpikeTV.
Stephanie McMahon’s open letter to Sam, released Tuesday, was ridiculous. It was the worst kind of attention-whoring. It’s the exact OPPOSITE thing a reputable, respectable company should be doing.
Even on Monday, I would’ve bet my entire life savings (the $9.99 I was hoping to buy out Dixie Carter’s shares of TNA Wrestling with) that Michael Sam wouldn’t accept the invitation. He’d be a fool to accept such a charade if he EVER wants to play pro football. What young, intelligent player would come out on live national TV, take a microphone, and bad mouth the organization(s) he hopes will pay him millions of dollars one year? That is, even if there are stories to tell. Were Vince & Co. expecting a horrific “I was bullied for my sexual beliefs/the Ram’s GM sent me sexually lewd texts” tell all? Would #GrowingUpMichaelSam be the hashtag of the night? Or would Michael Sam coming out to the ring and donning his best Tebow-esque, “Thanks for all the support, y’all! I’m gonna play pro football some day!” be enough to deflate an entire arena?
I have nothing but respect for Sam precisely because he seems like the kind of individual who would be gracious and humble enough to respect the process. He’s not an NFL-diva. He’s a PROFESSIONAL athlete.
Unfortunately, WWE is the one acting unprofessional here. Just over a year ago, the company had a chance to set sexual orientation discrimination on a new path with Darren Young. Everybody seemed supportive at the time and the company even gave him a few more televised matches. And not that he should’ve been spotlighted more (or less) because of his announcement, but nothing changed for the company otherwise. They quickly went back to using “bitch”, one of the worst gender-offensive terms, to describe both male and female athletes. They showered viewers with stupid storylines involving women who were so man-crazy they had to pour milk over one another. They used women as sexual objects instead of talented performers, and allowed Jerry Lawler to horn-dog it up just a little bit more.
They even showed a built-in ad with two of the most kid friendly superstars on the roster glorifying Twisted Tea.
In 2014, ratings aren’t enough. A company is expected to be socially responsible. The 90’s were TWO DECADES AGO and yes, while we all look back at the ‘Attitude Era’ through rose-colored glasses, many things the company did back then were downright inexcusable.
I’ve come to expect the worst from TNA, and Ring of Honor isn’t public enough (yet) to matter. But for one of the nation’s most dominant sports-entertainment properties, the WWE still has a lot of growing up to do. It’s proven once again that attention-whoring is more important than respect – of it’s competitors, of its athletes, or its fans. What a shame.
How do you feel about the Michael Sam invitation? Let us know in the comments below!