Instead of presenting a long list of reasons the Eagles should draft Michael Sam, the Mizzou offensive lineman who came out of the closet on Sunday and stands to be the first openly gay player in the NFL, let me present two words:
Being gay is not at all the same thing as being a dog murderer, so let’s not take the comparison too far. But remember this: When the Eagles signed Vick, he was fresh off a stint in Leavenworth, time served for the crime of treated dogs cruelly, fatally by fighting them against each other. When they signed Vick, then, the Eagles sent a pretty unmistakable question: They’re all about winning. They’re willing to risk controversy and backlash from a good chunk of their fan base if that gets the franchise an inch closer to a championship.
And you know what? It more or less worked. When Vick was guiding the team to the playoffs, the holdouts among Eagles fans were relatively small in number. It was only toward the end of his tenure, when he’d been benched, that people started talking about the issue.
So the Eagles can live with a vicious dog-murderer in their midst. Surely they can do the same with the reigning SEC defensive player of the year, an apparently likable guy who came out to his team a year ago—and whose team went on to have its best season in a half-century.
There’s lots of talk that Sam has hurt his draft stock by coming out. The Eagles pick late in the first round, but it sounds like they’ll have the opportunity—or two, or three, depending how many rounds he lasts. Indeed, SI.com has already speculated: “It could be that a liberal owner and progressive coach like Jeffrey Lurie and Chip Kelly of the Eagles will not care at all, and if he’s there in the fourth or fifth round will grab him.”
So take a chance, Eagles. You’ve already rehabilitated the most notorious felon in this league—and Sam, as we’ve said, is anything but: He’s a good player. He doesn’t need redemption. He just needs an opportunity. Surely the Eagles can provide that?