Posted: 10:32 am Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Dimitroff concerned about player’s ‘skill set,’ not sexuality 

By Jeff Schultz

Thomas Dimitroff said he and coach Mike Smith wouldn't downgrade a player for his sexual orientation. (AP photo)

Thomas Dimitroff said he and Mike Smith wouldn’t downgrade player for his sexual orientation.

It’s common for there to be disagreement on where and when an NFL prospect will be drafted, so Missouri defensive end Michael Sam being projected to go anywhere from the third to fifth round to possibly not even taken isn’t unusual. But the fact an online sports book has posted an over/under on Sam’s draft spot – 125½ — should indicate he is not your typical mid-round prospect.

Sam is homosexual. It would be naive to believe there aren’t any gay players in the NFL. But no current player has gone public and Sam is the first athlete to go public with an otherwise private matter just prior to his professional career — and before he has been drafted.

The obvious question: Will it affect his draft status?

Sports Illustrated jumped on the Sam story early by quoting eight anonymous NFL executive. Nobody was on the record. It’s the slimiest and most irresponsible form of journalism. There’s a big difference between using unnamed sources for a news story that can be verified – example: Watergate – and using blind comments for what amounts to an opinion piece on somebody sexuality and speculation on the draft.

A number of NFL executives have since stepped forward to speak publicly in their support of Sam. We can now count Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff among them.

“We recognize and appreciate the courage that Michael Sam demonstrated with his recent announcement,” Dimitroff said. He added the player’s sexuality “will have no bearing on how we evaluate him as a football player.

“If we deem Michael Sam as being an ideal fit for us as football player and a character and having upside to play in this league, we would consider the acquisition. But that’s what I would say about any player in this year’s draft.”

Dimitroff didn’t specifically address his evaluation of Sam as a player. (The Falcons got a closeup view of him in the Senior Bowl as coach Mike Smith and his assistants coached Sam’s team.) But he said the lineman’s sexuality did not prompt the team to move him down the Falcons’ draft board.

“I firmly believe it’s about the skill set and the natural ability of the football player,” he said. “If that player will make our team better, and this is what I truly believe is true in the NFL, we’ll move forward and make the selection.”

He said he hasn’t spoken to other NFL general managers about this subject so he doesn’t have a feel for what others are thinking. “Quite honestly, this is about what the Atlanta Falcons believe. I know some things have been written. I’m sure opinions will be all over the board.”

NFL teams investigate backgrounds of all players, particularly before a draft. But Dimitroff said a player’s sexuality “hasn’t been part of our focus” in the past

He believes there are gay players in the NFL. Of course. Stories on demographics of sexual orientation of men have placed estimates of 1.7 to 10 percent being gay. With 1,900 players on rosters and practice squads, even the low end of 1.7 percent equates to 32 players — or one per team.

But no gay athlete has public disclosed his sexual orientation during his career. The closest exception: former Atlanta Hawks and NBA center Jason Collins, who came out last April near the end of his career. He has not been signed by any team this season.

Dimitroff understands the concerns over team chemistry and distractions as well as anybody. “But we’re not concerned over (potential) distractions over this situation,” he said. “There’s such a wide range of opinion about what a distraction is in the NFL. It varies from one team to another.”

Would he or Smith feel the need to take a temperature of the locker room, asking a few players how they would feel about having a gay teammate?

“I don’t believe that’s necessary,” Dimitroff said.

But you understand why some are addressing the issue of chemistry.

“No one knows the impact in a locker room for any acquisition until he’s in the locker room and interacting with our team,” Dimitroff said. “It doesn’t matter who that acquisition is. Period.”

Opinions vary on Sam as an NFL prospect. He was the SEC’s defensive player of the year with 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. But he’s relatively undersized to be an NFL end (6-2, 260) and most of his production came in the first half of the season.

If Sam lasts into the late rounds, however, or isn’t drafted at all, questions about tolerance and diversity in professional sports will again arise. He’s a test case.

Some recent ramblings (blogs, columns)
– Blog: Missouri’s Sam says he’s gay; how will NFL react?
– MyAJC: Falcons (and most teams) falls in Atlanta sports rankings
– MyAJC: Paul Johnson: Perception of Tech not reality
– Blog: Tech’s talent level (just the facts, no spin)
– Blog: Signing Day advice: Proceed with caution
– MyAJC: Manning can’t even outscore Seattle’s defense
– Blog: Super Bowl Short Takes on Seattle’s rout of Denver
– MyAJC: Elway sent message when nobody on Falcons did
– MyAJC: NFL is about money more than weather
– MyAJC: Seattle’s Coleman inspires by overcoming deafness
– Blog: Dimitroff: Clowney will be difference-maker
– MyAJC: Peyton Manning’s legacy secure, win or lose
– Blog: Manning may be No. 1 QB in history now
– Blog: Expect Atlanta to get Super Bowl despite storm
– MyAJC: John Fox goes from heart surgery to Super Bowl (like Reeves)
– Blog: Digi-Blog goes to the Super Bowl!
– MyAJC: Richard Sherman succeeds in changing narrative
– Blog: Seattle made more right decisions than Falcons
– MyAJC: Goodell has put Super Bowl at unnecessary risk
– MyAJC: Falcons’ makeover should start with Clowney
– Blog: Poll: Should Falcons make a run at Clowney?
148 comments
MotocrossSurvivor
MotocrossSurvivor

Yeah we know.  What other response would you expect?  Skill set schmill set, the Blank Falcons will never win a Superbowl.  End of story.

notPlanB
notPlanB

When I was in the Army during the Vietnam era, we lived in barracks separate from the females (WACs). That's because our culture is to seperate those from their sexual preference. My being straight means I would feel very uncomfortable in a shower being a gay guys sexual preference while they are not mine. I do believe other players have the right to not be exposed to this. Seperate showers might be the answer. Seems like all the giving in is pushed on the majorities rather than the minorities.

Time has moved on and now we have coed dorms but I don't think males and females are sharing showers by rule. If they are, let me know and I might go back for a few more courses. 

-sting-
-sting-

another rational voice:


<sports anchor Dale Hansen, on ABC's Dallas-Fort Worth affiliate WFAA, discussing University of Missouri All-American defensive end Michael Sam on Monday. Sam announced on Sunday that he is gay; the National Football League has never had an openly gay player, and Sam's announcement—which came just weeks before draft-eligible players like Sam are put through the paces in front of team executives and scouts—has been hailed as remarkably brave.

You can read the full transcript of Hansen's comments here, but here's an excerpt:

Several NFL officials are telling Sports Illustrated it will hurt him on draft day because a gay player wouldn't be welcome in an NFL locker room. It would be uncomfortable, because that's a man's world.

You beat a woman and drag her down a flight of stairs, pulling her hair out by the roots? You're the fourth guy taken in the NFL draft.

You kill people while driving drunk? That guy's welcome.

Players caught in hotel rooms with illegal drugs and prostitutes? We know they're welcome.

Players accused of rape and pay the woman to go away?

You lie to police trying to cover up a murder?

We're comfortable with that.

You love another man? Well, now you've gone too far.

It wasn't that long ago when we were being told that black players couldn't play in "our" games because it would be "uncomfortable." And even when they finally could, it took several more years before a black man played quarterback.

Because we weren't "comfortable" with that, either.

So many of the same people who used to make that argument (and the many who still do) are the same people who say government should stay out of our lives.

But then want government in our bedrooms.

I've never understood how they feel "comfortable" laying claim to both sides of that argument.

"The world needs more old white guys like WFAA's Dale Hansen," the Dallas Observerdeclared on Wednesday.>


wake up people to your own hypocrisy and fear. it is biologic and is as god given as any distorted or selected scripture handed down by man or quoted and preached by man. 

BCW1
BCW1

I am sorry but I spent 10 years in a HS and college FB lock room and this will not sit well with a lot of players. The NFL's stance is one thing, the players stance is another.

JSSN
JSSN

@ Jeff Schultz

Why does a comment about the NFLPA need moderation?

Oracle
Oracle

Who would .want to be his roommate during training camp ......this will be a disaster ....if one of SAMs teammates Is cut during training camp.....he can always claim sam sexually harassed him and get a quick ,quiet settlement from the nfl......the nfl is going to get more than they bargained for with this political correct garbage

Taio
Taio

SEC defensive player of year.  I can care less, who he dates, as long as he can do something, we couldnt do last year "Get to the QB!"  A mid round pick, bring him in  Gays all over will purchase his jersey, which would put $$$ in owners pockets. 

CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

"If Sam lasts into the late rounds, however, or isn’t drafted at all, questions about tolerance and diversity in professional sports will again arise. He’s a test case."


This is a dilemma for some teams I would expect - and might be a factor in deciding whether or not to draft him. 


Because Sam is a "test case" every decision made by NFL execs and coaches will be scrutinized through the filter of his sexuality.  And if his draft stock drops, or if he doesn't make an NFL final roster, many will claim homophobia as the root cause.


I wish Sam the best of luck.  He seems well-grounded and mature beyond his years.  He's got guts.  He came out to his coaches teammates after he'd established his credibility as a football player, but at the next level, he's gay first and has to prove himself worthy.







JChikara
JChikara

He would be a perfect fit for the Falcons, because they are desperate for pass rushers, and he gets to the QB. If Jake Matthews is available at pick number 6, get him and then get Sam in round 2. He is a leader and I think those two guys would do wonders for this team who should seriously consider anyone who can help their front seven. 

FalconJames
FalconJames

Imagine the media circus if Incognito and Sams end up on the same team.

RangeRover
RangeRover

Leviticus 18:22:

"You shall not lie with a male as those who lie with a female; it is an abomination." 

LostGoat
LostGoat

if they sign some gay players, they need to start playing different stuff in the locker room, maybe some show tunes instead of hip hop. 

Sheldon-Cooper
Sheldon-Cooper

What else could he have said?  Its a no win scenario for any team, but a great one for
Sam. Sam has almost guaranteed a first round selection

FSUNole
FSUNole

maybe he can be a "tight end" haha..lol

FarTrain
FarTrain

How many times (dozens!)   have we heard a coach or GM say " we don't need a cancer on our team".  If that's not a cancer I don't know what is.  The "circus" of reporters, and not just sports, will be 10 times worse than it was with Tebow.  Seriously what team really wants such a negative distraction?

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

Can he tackle in the NFL, thats all i care about.

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

I guess you could call it brave but I think it is a very "me" decision that places team second. How he handles the new hanger on's like GLADD and others will give insight to other possible motives...

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

Lot of opinions tonight, none to special.


Flacons_go_2-14
Flacons_go_2-14

Stop worying about drafin a gay and strat woryin about draftin Johnny Fottball. Just how stoopid R U all?

pompano
pompano

A couple of big issues will now face the team that drafts him:


If you draft him lower than some idiot pundit who has never actually drafted a player claims he should go, the media will claim it's because he's Gay.


If you draft him and he doesn't get playing time, the media will claim it's because he's Gay.


When the time comes in his future that he's cut for lack of performance (like it does for all NFL players eventually) the media will claim it's because he's Gay.


And with low-lives like Kluwe and Martin threatening litigation, who'd want to have to deal with this?

DBT Jacket
DBT Jacket

Wouldn't want him, or the liberal media frenzy that is sure to follow. He's a mid-round pick at best,....don't need the headaches,.....move on.

JONBONBON
JONBONBON

Who cares if he takes it up the you know what... Most guys are receivers these days

ryesouvie
ryesouvie

Gay, Straight, White, Black.....Who Cares? Sam is not hurting anyone. Live and let live. This guy is a good player and we need pass rushers and playmakers on defense. I would like the falcons to draft this guy if they think he can help. If this guy goes undrafted, shame on the NFL and shame on our society as a whole. Go Falcons!

JSSN
JSSN

@-sting-  

Before Oracle goes off on another of those rants. Here's the link to the (National Institute of Health) NIH references to peer reviewed studies (and they are not propaganda from the "Gay agenda") on sexual orientation from across demographics groups and national identities. Make your own conclusions.

Oracle
Oracle

@-sting-  show me any  peer reviewed scientific report that is not funded by the gay movement that   proves being gay is genetic and you are born that way . You are born black, white, asian ,hispanic those are not choices and are easily proven with science. So dont muddy the water with nonsense  that cant be compared .

notPlanB
notPlanB

Since you mentioned God, why is it that he made us to only be able to reproduce as a man and a woman? Not a man and man or a woman and woman.

The left wing is running this country and have made a mess.

JSSN
JSSN

@BCW1  

Whoop de do, their have been Gay players in the NFL before. Lots of people in Washington's locker room knew that Jerry Smith was Gay. As Charley Casserly said on NFL dot com, we knew and moved on! As Donte Stallworth said, rhis will separate the winner and loser organizations how they handle this. Like the Brooklyn and Cleveland locker rooms in 1947, you either adapt or spend a long time mucking around while the world passes you by!

JSSN
JSSN

@Oracle  

Sorry, but you're talking crazy on this one. Here is why, just as in the the Martin case; you're not taking into account the missing component that "work place representation" overrides anybody trying to claim "sexual harassment" in such a cavalier manner. Any player would have to offer a compliant with the NFLPA first through the player rep. Moreover, in many states it leaves the complainant open to litigation if the suit is invalid unlike workplace intimidation (see Martin).

notPlanB
notPlanB

Sorry JChikara but you draft like TD. If he likes a player, he drafts them even tho many experts say he could have been drafted a round or two later. That's why we have no depth. Giving our 3rd round to move up or drafting a guy in the 3rd that is really a 5th rounder.

Esquire
Esquire

@JChikara  Hey look....the fact is he isn't going to be a 2nd round pick ......he will drop down in the draft if he is drafted at all.  And the possibility exists a team is going to get lucky and sign him as a UFA.  If the Falcons take him I expect him to be the best player available bar none.  That is the price you pay to take a player that has martyred himself and the media frenzy that is sure to follow him.  I wish the kid luck and a long NFL career.  Would love to see the Falcons land Matthews but straight up, no Dimitroff draft pick juggling act. 

JSSN
JSSN

@RangeRover  

Are you going to stone people for bearing false witness? Are you going to stone people for eating unclean things? Are going to stone yourself not keeping rabbinic law concerning the "true Sabbath?" "Abomination," Jesus of Nazareth according to Scripture kept company and preached to unclean members of the society! Would you be calling him an "Abomination!" SMDH!

ByteMe
ByteMe

@RangeRover


"You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning.…" Leviticus 19:13:


So you get paid daily? Going to stone your boss to death because you weren't?


"And the swine, because it divideth the hoof, yet cheweth not the cud, it is unclean unto you: ye shall not eat of their flesh, nor touch their dead carcase." Deuteronomy 14:8


Have any pulled pork lately?  Prepare to be stoned.


Bible cherry pickers and literalists are reserved a special place in hell.

FalconJames
FalconJames

@RangeRover I hate it when people start quoting Levitican law.  If you really believe that crap than you also believe that a child who talks back to his parents should be put to death.


Esquire
Esquire

@ScatMan  Man, I have to admit I chuckled at that.............but believe it or not there are some NFL players that are musicians and classically trained.  There's just as good a chance that he likes the Zac Brown Band or the Zombies.....

JSSN
JSSN

@FarTrain  

You don't know what a "cancer" is! Ray Edwards was a "cancer!" J.R. Rider was a "cancer!" Ken Caminetti was a "cancer!" Jeff George was a "cancer!" If you don't see the difference, well...try self-awareness tapes!

Jerry Brown
Jerry Brown

@ryesouvie Dude we don't need this type of guy on our team. The Falcons are already consider a soft team in the NFL, so we diffently don't need this gay guy casuing distractions when the season start. The NFL is a real man sport. He he wants to be gay, then he needs to go hang out at piedmont park, and stay off the football field. If I was a running back, I wouldn't want him tackling me.

RichardKPE
RichardKPE

@ryesouvie

This is the one potential landmine with this story.  People actually believe that if he goes undrafted, it will be because of his sexuality, and the stuff will hit the proverbial fan.  Mark my words, if anyone is drafted into the NFL, it's because a GM/coach thinks he can play at the professional level.  If anyone is undrafted, it's because a GM/coach does not think he can play at a professional level.

Oracle
Oracle

Clearly jssn has no idea of what a " peer reviewed" study is . this report is totally irrelevant to the challenge I gave to the gay community . Finding any random report with the words peer in the title is not the crux of the matter .

Oracle
Oracle

@JSSN @BCW1  

That gay train  that the world is passing me by  on cant leave the station fast enough for me .....be gone !! quick ,fast ,hurry  and i will supply the fuel....just go!

Oracle
Oracle

The media ,athletes and coaches all know that they cannot say anything except a gay friendly quote or they lose their jobs or endorsements . The gay movement is not tolerant of the truth or any real facts. They just tolerate feel good quotes or you will be punished severely . For example winning  games and bringing in a gay player are now suddenly linked by Donte ... that is just what the media masters demanded and they  have found  savvy,self promoting people to spread that crazy propaganda

Esquire
Esquire

@JSSN       Nicholas cost us the SF game..........  

JSSN
JSSN

@FalconJames @ScatMan  

It was Liberace. What is the deal with you folks? When stereotypes get cast into the pyre, you keep trying to drag out the old ones! George Washington wore a wig and short pants, you want to go back to the 1750s and try him on the manhood thing?

gotaenfuego
gotaenfuego

@RichardKPE It would be nice to believe that were true, but history and statistics argue otherwise. Is the NFL REALLY a meritocracy? I'd put the odds of that somewhere in the ballpark of a crocodile being elected the next president of the United States. Institutional bias is so dangerous because it's not conscious. It will probably still creep in even if the GMs THINK they are judging him solely on his football ability.

JSSN
JSSN

@Oracle

Hey, if you think it is a "Gay train," speaks volumes. Sounds like someone who just likes Grey (not realizing it takes more than one color to make it happen)!

JSSN
JSSN

@Esquire

Your fumbling and non 4th down converting franchise QB had more to do with it! Can I come and put it on your grave when you as on?