WWE’s Invitation To Michael Sam Shows Desperation, Highlights Point Of Irony

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.

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.

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  • Zack

    Well said Richard

  • Cory S

    Mike Sam delivering the message would hold a lot more weight than Young delivering it. Sam is a well known athlete, while Young is lucky to see tv time.

    • http://www.wrestlingnewsworld.com/ Richard Gray

      Disagree completely. The WWE machine makes their performers much more visible than the NFL (or college football) could ever do. Just look at Twitter followers – Sam has 184K, while Young has 305K. Young is also a name the WWE audience is already familiar with, something that cannot be said about Sam.

      • Cory S

        You don’t think the WWE audience is familiar with Sam? He’s been in the mainstream media for months now. You can’t say the same for Young. WWE is doing this for viewers. Announcing an open invitation to Sam will draw many more viewers, especially outside the WWE audience, than Young getting the open invitation. Has Darren Young ever moved the needle?

      • Cubed56

        While I agree on your point here Richard about Young being more familiar with the WWE audience, he is not more well known than Michael Sam. The WWE also makes some of their performers more visible than the NFL, not all of them. If you took the top 5 most popualr wrestlers right now and top 5 most popular football players right now, I’d pretty much guarantee the top 5 football players are way more recognizable and known then the top 5 wrestlers(except maybe Cena). The NFL and football in general has FAR more fans then the wwe, and Sam is far more known and recognizable among the American and worldwide public because of the 24/7 coverage hes had since his announcement prior to this year’s NFL draft. Everytime you turned on Sportcenter or NFL network or anything reporting on the NFL since Michael Sam came out, there was a story of some sort regarding him. Darren Young had barely anything written or shown on TV about him coming out, and to be quite honest unless you are a wrestling fan, you probably don’t know who Darren Young is, let alone that he is gay. The same cannot be said about Sam, whether or not you like football, chances are you know who Michael Sam is.

        • Bob’s Diner

          Think about international exposure as well, though – no one outside the USA knows how this guy is. Darren Young got massive exposure when he came out through various outlets and he is himself more recognised internationally than an NFL player

          • Cubed56

            I can agree with both your statements about international exposure. However, Michael Sam also got a tons on international exposure as the NFL is also very big internationally. They’ve got tons of support to move 1 or 2 teams to the european market, whether that happens remains to be seen. I agree with moose also, he and others may not know who Michael Sam is, but if you surveyed say 1,000 people, far more would know who Michael Sam than would know who Darren Young is. A big difference is also that Michael Sam’s name will be remembered longer in history, as Darren Young’s will be. IMO. unless you are a die hard wrestling fan, or gay rights activist, chances are Darren Young’s announcement has already been forgotten about. I’m not saying that that’s right, as I feel Darren Young should’ve gotten far more support by the national and international media like Sam did, but the simple fact is wrestling is nowhere near the popularity if the NFL, or football in general.

          • Bob’s Diner

            NFL isn’t really THAT popular internationally, is it? I mean, news like this certainly didn’t make its way to my corner of the world – but Darren Young coming out did.

            Until yesterday, I had NO IDEA who Michael Sam was or that he even existed

          • Cubed56

            Where are you from? Maybe I am wrong, but would you have known of Darren Young if you were not a wwe fan?

          • Bob’s Diner

            I’m in New Zealand. I do seem to remember one of the online news sites (as in general news – not wrestling) running the story about Darren Young. Albeit not front page stuff, but there was an article in the entertainment section nonetheless. Michael Sam coming out didn’t get any coverage with us, though other US sports issues do (like the Donald Sterling stuff). I could be wrong and just didn’t see it – that is totally possible

          • Undecided Voter

            I follow the NFL Bob, so I knew. But It didn’t make it on the main news channels here in NZ, or at least not that i recall. WWE is bigger than NFL here for sure.

            And the NFL is not that big outside of the US. Americans, do not kid yourself. It is well behind Football, Cricket, Rugby, Golf, Tennis, and probably even basketball to be honest.

            A lot of people watch the superbowl outside the US as a “spectacle”, not because they follow the game.

        • Moose

          Granted, I work, sleep, eat, repeat, so I don’t keep up with current events as I should (i.e. I live under a rock). Anyhow, I had no idea who Michael Saw was, but obviously knew who Darren Young was. As BD said before me, the international exposure should be more prevalent with Young vs. Sam.

          • Cubed56

            see below Bob’s Diner.

  • Gesus Oliver

    These were my thoughts exactly. If anything giving him an open mic would hurt any chance for him to get a position because he’d just come off as a bitter ex player who was cut due to sexual orientation not ability. When really the excuses were arguably legitimate. Who would want anyone on their team who is just bitter? NFL isn’t ECW and Sam isn’t Austin. I digress, I think it was just one of the many desperate publicity acts we occasionally see from WWE. You his the nail on the head with TNA. The problem here seems to be that fans will accept WWE doing it but if it were TNA people would be calling for Dixie’s head.

  • supercilious1

    Thanks for posting this Richard. I don’t agree with the gay agenda, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think gays have a right to live out their dreams. If you read comments on ESPN or Yahoo Sports you will clearly see that most people are tired of hearing about Michael Sam. I don’t think people have a problem with him playing in the NFL; they have a problem with all the attention he’s receiving and the fact that ESPN/Yahoo are trying to lecture their readers. For Sam’s sake it would be best if he declined this offer from WWE. It will do him no favors with teams if he goes on RAW. Eric Wood tweeted that Sam was released because he was a distraction. Most of the media is NOT pouncing on Wood because they probably know what he said is true.

    As for WWE they are looking so pathetic lately. I have to wonder how much say Vince has in things as of late. All of these $9.99 mentions and the Sam invitation seem like it’s the idea of Stephanie McMahon.

  • TheBigKing1

    I agree with everything you said Richard.

  • Bob’s Diner

    Well said, Richard. The open letter from Stephanie McMahon was terrible and reeked of desperation. If this was TNA, WWE fans would be all over it.

  • Robinescence

    Agreed. This is an insipid and desperate Dixie move and I hope Sam totally ignores it.