Michael Sam's 'docu-series' postponed indefinitely

5/16/2014

By Jim Thomas

By Jim Thomas

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS (MCT) — The planned Michael Sam "docu-series" on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) was postponed Friday, with no time frame in place as to when the project might resume.

"After careful consideration and discussion with the St. Louis Rams, 'The Untitled Michael Sam Project' has been postponed, allowing Michael the best opportunity to achieve his dream of making the team," OWN president Erik Logan said in a statement released Friday evening. "We will continue to support him in his journey to earn a spot playing for the Rams."

After drafting Sam, the all-American defensive end from the University of Missouri, the Rams were determined to keep distractions to a minimum in selecting the first openly-gay player in NFL history.

The team was blindsided when the Oprah network announced Wednesday that it was filming a multi-episode series on Sam's efforts to make the Rams' roster and play in the NFL. Rams officials and coaches were unaware of the project prior to the draft, and unhappy about it.

One of Sam's agents, Cameron Weiss of Empire Athletes, met with the Rams on Friday, where it was decided to put the project on ice. Weiss told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Friday evening that there was no timetable on resuming the project, "but we are all still committed to telling the story."

In an earlier statement, Weiss said the postponement, "will allow for Michael to have a total focus on football, and will ensure no distractions to his teammates."

The Rams declined comment.

The Rams have indicated privately that they have had no issue with Sam himself since he was drafted late in the seventh round May 9, just eight picks before the end of the draft.

Some extra security measures have been taken around Rams Park since Sam's arrival. The team has slightly limited access to the entire rookies class, which includes 11 draft picks and 14 rookie free agents.

But otherwise, it has been business as usual at Rams Park. The rookies took part in their first practice Thursday, a session that was closed to the media. On Friday, the media was allowed to watch the rookies' entire 90-minute session, but no coaches or players were available for interview afterwards.

Sam, who will try to make the team as a designated pass rusher and special teams player, took part in individual drills with the Rams' three other rookie defensive lineman Friday, and got in some special teams work as well, even staying after practice for a few minutes working with special teams coordinator John Fassel.

About 30 media members were on hand, including 12 still or video cameras. The overall attendance was roughly equivalent to a mid-week practice during the regular season.

A camera crew from the Oprah network was on hand filming the practice and interviewing reporters afterwards. The crew also was present Tuesday for Sam's introductory news conference in the team auditorium at Rams Park. But the crew got no special, or extra access on either day.

Friday began with the NFL taking umbrage to reports and statements made by Weiss earlier in the week that the league knew about the Sam "docu-series" before he was drafted and was OK with it.

"The league was not aware there was an agreement with the Oprah network," NFL vice president of communications Brian McCarthy told the Post-Dispatch via e-mail. "We learned of this in the days after the draft.

"As to having signed off on the project or granting rights or logos — we have not signed such an agreement."

Weiss had indicated otherwise during a Thursday radio interview on WGNU (920 AM), a show that includes Post-Dispatch columnists Joe Strauss and Bryan Burwell as hosts.

"We had communicated to the league office what our plans were," Weiss said in the interview. "They were aware of it."

McCarthy later told the Post-Dispatch that the league was aware of Weiss' comments, adding: "We are saying the agent is not correct."

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