ESPN reports on gay Rams rookie Michael Sam’s showers

I’m not 100% sure that I’m as upset about this as others are.

An ESPN reporter, Josina Anderson, when asked how new Rams recruit Michael Sam was faring (Sam is openly gay), reported something she’d heard from one of Sam’s teammates. Namely, that Sam seemed to be skipping the showers while his other teammates were there. Ostensibly not to make them uncomfortable.

I think it’s newsworthy, and a bit sad, that Michael Sam himself may have chosen not to take showers with his teammates in order to not make them uncomfortable.

And I’m not at all convinced that ESPN’s Anderson did anything wrong in her reporting on it. She reported what she heard, then talked to other teammates who seemed to undercut the story. (It would be good to know if Sam himself had anything to say about it.)

michael-sam-showerLook, “showers” are an unfortunate issue we’ve had to deal with in the gay right arena for decades. It was one of Sam Nunn’s favorite arguments when he was busy torpedoing President Clinton’s effort to lift the ban on gays in the military back in 1993. So, I think we do ourselves a disservice when ignoring the “shower” issue.

Having said that, I think Anderson, and whoever was hosting over at ESPN, could have perhaps done a better job here by throwing in the point that the whole issue of “showers” is a bit silly. But it is an issue for some of the homophobes, so I don’t think we should ignore it, or avoid it.

And I have to say, the way Anderson handled it pretty much put the issue to bed, as it were. As I said above, I’m not a big fan of ignoring the elephants in the room when discussing civil rights issues, or any other “conflict.” Of all the ways Anderson could have handled this, I wasn’t terribly offended by what she did.

Am I wrong?


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • Ninong

    Tony Dungy was right about one thing. He said there would be too much drama and distraction surrounding Michael Sam and he wasn’t talking about Michael Sam’s ability to play in the NFL. He was talking about people like ESPN’s Josina Anderson, who would make it their business to create that drama and distraction.

    Michael Sam is not a distraction. The unprofessional reporting on Michael Sam’s career in the NFL has been the distraction. I am convinced it was Josina Anderson’s boss at ESPN who sent her out to manufacture this “story” and that is why there is no apology in her “thoughts” on her Michael Sam coverage.

  • evodevo

    I liked Sam Bee’s take on this on the Daily Show better. She read some excerpts from an NFL bio about typical locker room behavior ….. WTF!!! Talk about weird …..geez.

  • Gd Young

    ridiculous, no need to report this info

  • DetroitSam

    You have to feel a little sorry for this reporter that she has been reduced to reporting on an athletes showing habits. I’m assuming that she attended a college somewhere so she should have wanted better for herself.

    Bet her parents are proud.

  • Butch1

    If they were that insecure about their man they must have had a good reason to be. On the other hand, sometimes their own insecurities are a projection of their own past weaknesses and you just happen to be the recipient of their anger.

  • cleos_mom

    Back when I was a young single (more than a few POTUS administrations ago) I was regularly gobsmacked by the women who were the most paranoid about some sneaky single slut stealing “their” man. In most cases, if the guy was for sale he’d fetch about 5 cents in a bull market.

  • cleos_mom

    Wouldn’t exactly say you’re wrong but somehow I doubt that most sports fans tune in to get the latest news about the locker room shower scene.

  • http://hunteratrandom.blogspot.com/ rmthunter

    After thinking about it in the back of my mind for a couple of days, and in light of subsequent events, it was just stupid. ESPN’s apology was wide of the mark — it’s not the way they handled the report, it was the content. It’s not news. As a couple of sources have noted, no one cares.

    As for whether it’s offensive or not, I fall back on the old dictum: there’s no need to assume malice when stupidity is reason enough. It’s easy enough to figure out: Ooh, they said, gay man, locker room, showers. Titillating.

    Not.

  • http://hunteratrandom.blogspot.com/ rmthunter

    Excellent riposte.

  • Jonas Grumby

    Hmmm. I tend to bow to the opinion of someone who is in the group being “attacked”. It’s like me, the white boy, commenting in a way that makes it look like I know what it’s like to be black.

    I do agree that she handled it much better than I expected. It certainly wasn’t tabloid-ish. However, just because something is an issue doesn’t mean it needs to be reported. The reason is that it isn’t reported in a vacuum and has a wide effect on a topic so as to render intelligent discussion of the topic impossible. It’s the “how can you be a female CEO AND raise the children” question.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    Look at how anti-union the NYTimes cover of the Metropolitan Opera’s recent contract negotiations was. Disgusting. Liberal? As if.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    I am always astonished the extent to which foreign news sources cover American stories and how unaware Americans are of the rest of the world (with a few notable exceptions). Example, when I landed in Germany in 2003 the lead story on their tv news was a rather minor hurricane in the US (category 3). There was little to no mention in the US media of a horrible storm from the north sea later that fall. A few years later I landed in Madrid in the spring of 2008. Even though my Spanish is rudimentary I could easily tell that almost every conversation I passed in a bar or restaurant was about the Democratic Primary. Clinton and Obama were easily recognizable as the topic of conversation. Imagine. We barely cover the elections in other countries even though those outcomes often have a major impact on us, much less discussions of internal party politics! It leaves us blindsided too often because we just don’t pay attention to what’s going on beyond our own borders.

  • Thom Allen

    It’s a typical Republicanology.

    Cyd Ziegler blasts Josina Anderson and ESPN. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPUrXXrKcbU

  • http://americablog.com magster

    Tangent: per ESPN “Through three preseason games, Sam — the first openly gay active player
    in NFL history — has five tackles and three sacks. Rams coaches’ film
    review also credits the rookie defensive end with two quarterback
    pressures and a quarterback hit.”

    If he doesn’t make the team with those stats as a DE, something is very wrong. Not many NFL players average a sack per game, and while he might have been playing the other team’s 2nd stringers, very few players in the same spot have done what Sam has done. He should be a lock to make team with those stats.

  • Hue-Man

    ESPN’s sort-of apology this morning: “ESPN regrets the manner in which we presented our report. Clearly
    yesterday we collectively failed to meet the standards we have set in
    reporting on LGBT-related topics in sports.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/early-lead/wp/2014/08/27/espn-says-it-regrets-michael-sam-shower-report-that-drew-criticism/

    ESPN really doesn’t get it. There are so many people and organizations who would help bring them into the 20th century (21st may not be realistic). I’ll mention one http://youcanplayproject.org/pages/our-cause

    OUR MISSION

    You Can Play is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation.

    You Can Play works to guarantee that athletes are given a fair
    opportunity to compete, judged by other athletes and fans alike, only by
    what they contribute to the sport or their team’s success.

    You Can Play seeks to challenge the culture of locker rooms and
    spectator areas by focusing only on an athlete’s skills, work ethic and
    competitive spirit.

  • Butch1

    Why homophobes think people desire their bodies and are going to not have any control and “rape” them is beyond me. Perhaps they are feeling just a little bit how many women feel when men size them up all the time and think it is okay to ogle them in public and even go as far as to verbally say something crude or even rude to them.

    Michael already has a boyfriend and isn’t into them in the first place. He wouldn’t jeopardize his chances even if he was interested in anyone else on the team. Why everyone is so concerned about him showering with them is just pathetic. Who really cares. It’s a straight man’s worry showering with a gay man if he isn’t secure with his own identity and worried he might be considered “figured out” by the gay guy. ;-) These closeted types are the ones that become the worst haters of all. They hate what is worse about what they dislike in themselves. They see themselves in the gay man and it makes them mad to see a gay man who is not ashamed of it and can live proudly and out. They hate that.

    The problem is with the homophobes and certainly not Michael. He’s a good player and they need not try and tear him down and try and make him look mediocre like one of the comments in the article seemed to suggest. It sounded like a teammate didn’t really want him on the team in my opinion, but didn’t want to sound homophobic, so he went after his athletic abilities as perhaps not being up to pro.

  • MJ

    Like you just said, “Every news source and every culture has its own biases so you have to keep that in mind..” Thanks for reminding everyone of something of utmost importance to remember.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    Agreed. I was living in Europe in 2002-2003 and when I returned home in April ’03 I was shocked at how much of what was common knowledge in the rest of the world had clearly not been reported by the US “liberal” media. Yes, do use foreign (not just British) sources for news. If you can read another language that is incredibly helpful. Every news source and every culture has its own biases so you have to keep that in mind but we do too and a steady diet of American tv news (that includes “liberal” sources like msnbc) will result in being woefully uninformed. Also, I find that a lot of the most interesting information is found in the lower 1/3 or so of a news story. That’s the stuff that isn’t going to make it into a tv or radio story and a lot of the depth and substance of any story is down there in the part most likely to be cut.

  • MJ

    ( lol )

  • dcinsider

    I guess I would have noted that if any of these players had been to their local gym at any point in their lives, they showered with gay men every single time.

    In other words, somehow, someway, we managed to control ourselves and our never-ending lust when confronted with the impossibly handsome collection of straight men who shower in America’s gyms. (wink)

    I’m sure Michael can summon the same self-control in front of professional athletes that he managed to summon since, I don’t know, when he was 8.

  • Moderator3

    There are others?!?!?

  • MJ

    And stay off most of the stupid gay blogs, most of which practically just invent their own stories. (Not Americablog though. This one seems to generally be better).

  • FLL

    Try turning off the cable news (which isn’t worth watching anyway)

    You could avoid TV news entirely and get your news coverage from the Internet, which includes foreign news sources in English like Al Jazeera and British sources, and you would probably wind up better informed.

  • frogview

    She should stay out of the locker room. Non of her (or anyone else’s) business. I think we all would handle the same situation in numerous ways.

  • caphillprof

    The so-called “liberal” media is often the cheerleader for right-wing causes be it war or social oppression.

  • caphillprof

    The elephants in the room, of course, being Republicans who will be in their graves opposing human decency, truth, justice and the American way?

  • Thom Allen

    How Many other players did they profile with questions like this?

    Is ESPN inquiring as to how Manziel, the party boy/gambler is fitting in with the Browns after his well-reported trips to Vegas?

    Have they gone back and asked Vick’s teammates if they feel safe in bringing their dogs into the locker room? Vick’s a felon, is his team still copacetic with what he did?

    Anyone following up with Ray Rice’s teammates to see how he’s fitting in? Do they feel safe bringing their wives around him?

    Is the NFL doing random drug tests before the showers start to check for MJ use? Since MJ use happens in the NFL all of the time, I want to know how non-using players feel about the dope heads. Are they OK with them, or not?

    Would Aaron Hernandes’ teammates be welcoming to him after he finishes a serving a murder charge?

    Or even the more mundane, like: how are married teammate accepted by their unmarried fellows? And vice versa? Are evangelical christians comfortable with non-evangelicals? Are Christians, Jews, atheists and Muslims comfortable with each other? We don’t do that? Why? Cause ther are all big boys, college grads and should be able to handle it on their own. If not, the team has counselors available to help. And the team has to want to work together. Player A may hate player B. But on the field, that needs to be completely forgotten. They’re a team then and their job is to work together, complement each other and win the came. In the locker room, they can go back to hating if they want to, so long aas it doesn’t affect the team.

    Let’s either give this all of the equal time that it deserved for everyone with some faults to get off of his chest, court decisions to discuss, drug use, violence against humans and animals. These guys, by what they’ve already done have affected their reams negatively. Severe wife beating, and torture of dogs, drug use, murder. Those are major big time issues that could effect how the team evolves, if it grows, if if can act as a team.

    And if this shower problem is a problem, put in private shower stalls. You go , clothes the door, strip, throw clothes in the hamper, shower, dry off, dress and exit. Nobody sees you nude but you. Certainly all of the NFL teams have the extra cash available to do that. After the remodeling – no shower questions or complaints. Unless ESPN is having a slow news day. Then we might get “Boxers or tighty whitey poll questions.

    Personally, I always thought the group shower room was designed to let the straight guys check out their teammates’ bodies up close and personal, maybe get a slap or feel, see some soap dropped, compare Johnsons all by “accident” of course.

  • BillFromDover

    Has she contacted any of his old college teammates to inquire how many times he has been caught SWGB (showering with gigantic boner)?

    This is just too much bullshit from an organization that should know better.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Sam survived the roster cut to 75 players; Saturday is the day when teams have to report their final cuts to 53. The Rams are apparently a little overstocked on the defensive line so Sam’s spot is by no means guaranteed. So annoying that ESPN feels the need to report on this non-story at this point. Just table all this nonsense until he makes the roster, at least.

  • mark_in_toronto

    What?
    They don’t shower in swim trunks?
    OMG

  • GlennF

    The timing of this ESPN nonsense is very suspicious imo.

    It’s as if someone in the NFL and/or ESPN is attempting to stir up trouble right at this crucial time when the Rams are set to make scheduled roster cuts to the team and whether Sam is or isn’t going to be one of those cuts and also right after Sam had his impressive double sack performance against quarterback Johnny Manziel. Very suspicious timing indeed!!!

  • crazymonkeylady

    Much ado about nothing.

  • pericles9

    Standing corrected, my friend.

  • jamesnimmo

    Such an article continues the stereotype of gay men naked in showers with “mixed” company.

  • Bose

    It escapes me why any of the team’s shower preferences or choices are newsworthy, unless all of them — and the reasons for them — are all newsworthy.

    Seriously, if a player had surgical or burn scars, unusual genitalia, or skin issues needing special care that left him either preferring privacy — or insisting on 100% transparency about them — there is no way ESPN would be reporting on it. It’s between the players to deal with as they choose.

    Or, think of it this way: No matter how well it was known by the media that a player took good-natured teasing in stride about being well-endowed, it wouldn’t be reported as a measure of his respect that he elected to skip group showers. See what a good guy he is? He spares his buddies the embarrassment of feeling insecure next to him in the showers! It’s news!

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Your point is well taken, John — and 12 years ago is a loooong time in the LGBT world.

    Remember how 12 years ago it was impossible there’d ever be same-sex marriage?

    I’m not saying the topic is itself inherently offensive. The problem is always the framing of how it is brought up. As if, in Michael Sam’s case, it can be assumed that even if he can keep his hands to himself, he’s nevertheless at risk of leering at his teammates — when it can’t. Or in the case of the transfolks, as I brought up by way of illustration and contrast only, the fact the transphobes always get to frame their narrative as “male pervert voyeur / maybe rapist in a dress” — as if their point of view is in some way just another legitimate position based on reality.

    To go even further back, to my on era (no pun intended) of the ERA, one of the top objections of Schlafly and the rest of the anti-feminists was that somehow Constitutionally guaranteed equal rights would turn into unisex bathrooms filled with male predators and us poor, frail women losing our privilege of being taken care of and fought for in combat by big ole hunky men.

    The common thread in all this: Irrational fears being promoted as a reason to maintain the discriminatory status quo. And unfortunately, we have a Supreme Court now that, while it’s done a lot to advance gay rights in the marital arena, nevertheless has staked out a position that it’s okay if your beliefs are irrational and at odds with reality — all that matters is you say you believe in them. And suddenly, barring gay men from showers, transfolks from bathrooms, and women from equal treatment under the law all become okey-dokey if one just plays the religion* trump card.

    (* = Fundamentalist Christian beliefs only, however. Can’t have Sharia law!)

  • Moderator3

    Twice

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    This is a non-issue. Have we heard about any problems with gay servicemembers since the repeal of DADT? No. These are adults and professionals. They are fine. It’s the idiots in the media trying to stir up shit and old, bigoted people watching tv that think there’s a problem. There’s no problem. All the 20-somethings I know are fine with gay people. I’m sure there are exceptions but they are the minority. They all know gay people and are far more secure in their own masculinity that guys were when I was that age. (Including doing things out of the traditional gender stereotypes and not giving a fuck if people don’t approve.) In other words, I think there has been straight liberation finally. And yes, they needed it because as bad as the old stereotypes were for non-straights and women, they weren’t that healthy for straight men either. We are in a new era and because the news media is populated by old fogies who just don’t get this younger generation (and don’t seem to want to except to complain about them) you’d never know what was going on from watching tv. Try turning off the cable news (which isn’t worth watching anyway) and talking to a 20-something. They’re a lot more interesting than you might think.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    Haven’t we all figured out by now that “unnamed sources” is just “stuff I made up and want a comment on”?

  • pericles9

    Didn’t Sam sack Johnny Football last weekend and was cheered for it? That in itself should have secured his showering rights.

  • Thom Allen

    That’s the perfect response to this non-story.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Probably the most effective trans advocate I ever met was a woman who, among other things, hosted an online (I think) radio show in the midwest, either in WI or MN — this was like 12 years ago or more. She was freaking amazing. And she was upfront about wanting to talk about whatever questions I had, and she made sure that right off the bat we talked about bathrooms and showers, because those were the questions that so vexed people. She didn’t pull punches, she did avoid the topic, she didn’t complain about how offensive the topic was – she told me that this was going to be the first thing we discuss since it was a question that often confused/troubled people. She was simply amazing. I try to keep that in mind when I go through these gay questions of what we should and shouldnt’ talk about. Sure, the shower question is dumb and offensive, but it’s on people’s minds, so I’d rather we discussed it than avoided it. Having said that, the discussion has to be productive.

  • GlennF

    One of Michael Sam’s teammates, St Louis Rams defensive end, Chris Long, had this to say on twitter about ESPN’s obsession over Sam’s showering:

    https://twitter.com/JOEL9ONE/status/504346186644348928

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    For Transfolk, the freakout is over whether they can even be allowed to use a public restroom, never mind showers, locker rooms, etc.

    So Anderson ‘put this issue to bed’ by assuring people that Michael Sam wasn’t inflicting his gayness on his teammates in the shower? All it really does is perpetuate the normalization and acceptance of the position that straight men are somehow sexually vulnerable if a gay man sees them.

  • Hue-Man

    You’re wrong. She wasn’t asked about the shower arrangements, she reported what another player said without knowing whether Sam was purposefully avoiding the showers. The viewer would have had 100% the same information if she’d left the shower issue out of it. It’s the “icky gays in the showers” routine made not to appear so.

    Take an extreme example: “One player did say that President Obama has not been showering with the team. He didn’t know whether he was just giving the other players space or whether he was practicing his golf swing.”

  • FLL

    Doing otherwise would seem to indicate that professional players are more immature than college-level players, which would sound a little weird and counter-intuitive.

  • basenjilover

    Why is this even newsworthy? Shut the frick up. News media always gotta stir the pot of crap. I am offended Anderson had to report what she “heard from teammates”.

  • StraightGrandmother

    Sam was out to his teammates at Missu, if he team showed then he should team shower now.

  • nicho

    Well, since they have separate showers for whites and coloreds, I’m not sure why this is surprising.

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