WWE issued a surprise invitation to NFL hopeful Michael Sam to appear on next week’s episode of Monday Night Raw from Baltimore, Maryland. The invitation was announced on this week’s show and followed-up with an “Open Letter” penned by Stephanie McMahon, as Chief Brand Officer (not her character as a member of The Authority), here on the official WWE website.
— WWE (@WWE) September 2, 2014
Sam was a standout defensive end at the University of Missouri, winning the honor of SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Prior to the 2014 NFL Draft, he announced that he is gay. The St. Louis Rams drafted Sam in the 7th Round of the 2014 NFL Draft, which would have made him the first openly gay man to play in the NFL, however, cut him last week as they trimmed their roster to 53-men. He wasn’t given a spot on the team’s practice squad as they look to utilize it to create depth at other positions.
As part of WWE’s invitation, they’re offering an opportunity for Michael Sam to have an “open mic.” JBL was deliberate on commentary that at the very least Michael Sam should be on an NFL practice squad. While the latter might be true, the invitation as a whole comes off as a shameless promotional stunt.
We’ve often criticized TNA Wrestling over the years for similar stunts, so it’s only fair we judge WWE by the same standard.
This isn’t the first time WWE has tried to take a talking point in the mainstream media and bring it to their programming. Last year, the company invited conservative talk show host and political commentator Glenn Beck to Raw. They even sent Michael Cole to his office to interview him. When it was clear Beck had no interest, WWE quietly dropped the whole thing.
This time, it appears WWE wants to give Sam an open forum to promote a message of tolerance and respect. While I agree wholeheartedly with that message, it’s a message WWE could already deliver with one of their own talents. Darren Young came out as homosexual prior to SummerSlam last year and while he was turned babyface, the company did nothing to acknowledge his sexuality. Young is currently out after tearing his ACL but he was quick to point out the irony in WWE’s invitation.
While I applaud WWE’s efforts as a company that promotes equality, the invitation to Michael Sam does nothing to help either party. It makes WWE look desperate for attention and highlights irony with their reluctance to feature Darren Young, while it would only re-affirm concerns that NFL teams have about Michael Sam as a distraction. Sam wants to prove he deserves a spot on an NFL team based on his play, not on his sexuality. I have a very hard time believing that Sam would even consider the invitation as he continues to chase his dream.
I’ve been a loud critic about WWE’s “$9.99 marketing campaign” for the WWE Network, feeling it comes off as desperate and makes a valuable service come off as cheap. This is along those same lines of desperation and WWE should be looking to strengthen their own programming, rather than trying to capitalize on mainstream talking points.