Michael Sam’s journey to make it as the first openly gay player in the NFL will be documented in a series on Oprah Winfrey Network, the network announced Wednesday.
Sam, the former Missouri linebacker and SEC Defensive Player of the Year, will essentially have his own reality TV crew following him around for the show. The crew was present when Sam was drafted on Saturday, OutSports.com reports.
The Rams are also aware of the show and will be cooperating with its producers.
“Michael is focused on football and making the St. Louis Rams team,” said Howard Bragman, Sam’s publicist and one of the show’s producers, via OutSports. “We’re going to work with the Rams organization to make sure the show doesn’t interfere with his primary goal.”
Knowing about this reality show puts Sam’s draft status in an entirely new light. Drafting an openly gay player was going to attract a ton of media attention, but it’s another element entirely to select a player who will have his own TV show. That can create additional resentment and disruption within the locker room, which may be why teams passed on him. Think about how many teams don’t want to participate in HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” Think about how many teams don’t want guys like Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson or even AJ McCarron just because they do reality TV. And now you have a better understanding of why they would not have wanted to draft Sam.
Below is the full text of the press release announcing the show:
Oprah Winfrey Network announced today a new multi-part documentary series following the life of Michael Sam, who made history when he became the first openly gay football player drafted into the NFL by the St. Louis Rams. OWN partners with Emmy-winning producer Craig Piligian’s Pilgrim Studios and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Amy Rice (“Lindsay,” “By The People: The Election of Barack Obama”) to produce “The Untitled Michael Sam Project” (working title) which spotlights the former University of Missouri football player and his historic journey as he prepares to enter the biggest professional sports league in America.
This special documentary series will feature a deeply personal, up-close look at the remarkable man at the center of this groundbreaking moment in professional sports, as the All-American defensive end and SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year enters the competitive world of professional football. Cameras will follow Sam as he works to earn his spot on the St. Louis Rams all while under the intense scrutiny of being the first openly gay player in the NFL.
“We are honored that Michael is trusting us with his private journey in this moment that has not only made history but will shape it forever,” said Oprah Winfrey. “I am proud of the focus on authentic storytelling in our new documentary series format. The next real-life story we follow in ‘The Untitled Michael Sam Project’ promises to spark valuable, important discussion on life in America today. Acceptance and illumination start here.”
“Like every player out there working to make a team right now, my focus is on playing football to the very best of my ability,” said Sam. “I am determined. And if seeing my story helps somebody else accept who they are and to go for their dreams too, that’s great. I am thankful to Oprah for her support and excited to work together.”
“The Untitled Michael Sam Project” is produced with OWN by Pilgrim Studios and is executive produced by Craig Piligian, Nicholas Caprio and Johnny Gould. Amy Rice, Ralph Wikke and Mitch Rosa are co-executive producers. Cameron Weiss, Joe Barkett and Howard Bragman are producers.