Former Missouri linebacker Michael Sam announced Sunday that he is gay. The revelation has been well received in the media and among players, and one personnel director even told CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco that "If he can play, he can play." This is how it should be.
But this is an imperfect world where seemingly rational people make ridiculously irrational observations. Put another way: Despite the mostly positive response to Sam's news, a lot can change in the coming weeks and months ahead of the NFL Draft. And if Sam is drafted, the concerns will be how the team deals with the scrutiny, and how Sam is welcomed by his teammates, the fans and opponents.
On Monday, former NFL wide receiver Donte' Stallworth sent 20 tweets and used 457 words to explain why some NFL teams are ill-equipped to handle the media coverage that comes with signing Sam, a reality that speaks more about that organization's ineptitude than Sam's sexual preference.
"Herm Edwards posed a hypothetical question on ESPN RE: drafting Michael Sam, 'Can (GM/owner/coach) handle the media ... with this situation?'" Stallworth began.
"If any NFL team can't 'handle the media coverage' of drafting Sam, then your team is already a loser on the field... let me tell you why: There are a multitude of issues that can arise in the long duration of an NFL season... some on the field, some off the field. You won't have any idea what that on the field/off the field situation is until it's already upon you and the entire organization.
"Which means that with drafting Michael Sam, you get a jump start on controlling the 'media coverage' right from the onset. If an organization is inept to the magnitude of not being able to control things with prior knowledge, how will you handle the unexpected?
"Case Study 1: The Miami Dolphins and the bullying scandal. Players talked more about THAT than they did football... for weeks! During that time I questioned (tweeted) why the Dolphins players were talking more about the scandal than their next opponent Since the bullying story broke, the Dolphins finished the season 4-4 with their playoff hopes still alive, [then] got spanked by division opponent, Jets, 20-7.
"Case Study 2: The New England Patriots and Aaron Hernandez AND Tim Tebow situations. Beyond the state of shock I endured after the revelations of Hernandez, I knew that if ANY organization could handle this, it was the Pats. This all happened right before training camp where players are supposed to come in w/clear minds in preparation for a long, rigorous season.
"Not only were there questions about Aaron, but also about the health of Gronkowski and how those two combined affected the team as a whole. Aaron is still awaiting trial & Gronk played in only 7 games this season but yet the Pats seemed to avoid those 'distractions' altogether. Despite many season ending injuries to key pieces, the Pats finished 12-4 and lost to the Broncos in the AFC title with ... ZERO distractions.
"Not to mention the whole Tebow signing and (alleged subsequent) distraction wasn't even a blip on most radars," Stallworth continued. "Why? Because Mr. Kraft and Bill Belichick would not allow ANY of that to be a 'distraction' to ANYONE in the entire organization.
"In my 10 years as an NFL player, I've played for six different teams and have been in every kind of locker room. Vet, young, mature, immature. The leaders of an NFL organization AND the locker room better be able to handle adversity that is certain to emerge during a long NFL season.
"In my experience, if your organization can't 'handle media coverage,' they will suck on the field anyway. But hey, there's always 2015."
Ah, yes, distractions.
We understand that critics will no doubt point out that in 2009 Stallworth struck and killed a pedestrian with his car. He was charged with DUI manslaughter, promptly turned himself in and took responsibility for his actions. Stallworth served a month in jail, reached a confidential financial settlement with the family of the victim and was suspended from the NFL for a year.
That should not take away from Stallworth's larger point here: Some NFL teams can handle the media while others can't. And if an organization is uncomfortable with bringing Sam into the fold, not because of his football-playing abilities but because he's gay, then that organization has bigger issues.