Now that the NFL season is finally underway, it's time for the sports media to leave football player Michael Sam the hell alone. Since he came out in February, the press hasn't stopped harping on the fact that Sam is the first openly gay player to make it to the NFL. The real story is that gay athletes have played on professional football teams for a long time. They just never announced their sexual orientation at a news conference like Sam did.
After he was released by the St. Louis Rams, the team that drafted him in the second round, a new media circus sprang up around the former University of Missouri star. Two weeks ago, ESPN had to issue an apology after reporting about Sam waiting to shower until his teammates were finished.
But the network knew the story would go viral, so the apology was meaningless. After the Rams let Sam go, the network kept fueling the fire when talking head Stephen A. Smith claimed anonymous league sources told him that other teams "weren't too receptive to taking him on once the St. Louis Rams cut him."
Then, of course, he signed with the Dallas Cowboys practice squad, and NBC's Peter King, during the telecast of the season opener on September 4, said, "Sam and the NFL avoided a nightmare situation."
Sports pundits are making Sam's situation worse. Guys who have been covering the NFL for many years know Sam is not the first gay player in the league. They should kill the story, but they won't.
A flock of rabid reporters has followed him to Dallas, where the media glare is starting to get to Sam. "You guys follow me around like hawks," he said after his first late-morning workout with the Cowboys. "I've been tired of it since February."
It's a shame, because the young man can absolutely play at a professional level. Despite being an undersize defensive end, he was co-defensive MVP in the Southeastern Conference, the toughest group of teams in college football. He can put pressure on any quarterback, something the Cowboys defense desperately needs.
Let's hope the hype will die down and the media will let Sam just play football.
Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.