Response Post: Five Questions for Michael Sam’s Publicist.

This story, hosted by PR Week, intrigued me. I am a very big NFL fan, born and raised San Francisco 49er fan. The biggest question for me about this announcement is the timing. If you ask me, you don’t want distractions during the biggest job interview of your life. Thats what the NFL Combine is for NCAA football players, the biggest job interview of their lives.

Various sports outlets predict Sam being selected in the 4th-5th (out of 7) rounds of the NFL draft. I have never seen a 4th-5th round pick being covered so heavily. The amount of coverage he received was due to the announcement he made regarding his sexuality. There were more eyes on Sam during every drill he competed in at the combine. There was a spotlight on him, and not because of his athletic ability, but because he is the first openly gay NFL prospect. His sexuality has nothing to do with his football skills, yet he drew more attention to himself because he announced to the world that he was gay.

source: CBS Sports

source: CBS Sports

So why would Michael Sam’s publicist, Howard Bragman, want to release the story before the NFL combine? One reason, and one reason alone; he didn’t want the story to leak. Valid. Had Michael Sam’s sexuality been leaked prior to him making his announcement, there would have been controversy. His draft stock could have fallen more than it did, and NFL personnel would wonder if he had more secrets.

However, imagine Michael Sam doesn’t come out as a gay NFL prospect prior to the draft. There is essentially no spotlight on him, he gets drafted with no labels, and he gets paid and he should. Then he makes his announcement after he gets drafted. Would this be a bad look for him? Maybe. Maybe the media labels him as a talented NFL player but a gay player, and a player who held onto secrets during meeting with NFL teams.

It was a very difficult decision. To come out before or after the NFL draft. This is the first year that the NFL draft is taking place in May, not April. What does this mean? Another whole month for media coverage surrounding Michael Sam to die down.

Howard Bragman made the right decision. Having his client, Michael Sam, come out prior to the combine was overall more beneficial. Sam may have had to deal with a brighter spotlight and more pressure, but he won’t have to deal with it once he is drafted. As soon as he is selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, that team knows they  have drafted a talented player who happens to be gay.

Great PR move by Bragman and Sam. Michael Sam was able to announce his sexuality on his own terms. You always want your story out before the media gets their story out, and thats exactly what happened. Bragman said that “I’ve turned down every show that you can imagine around the world. As a PR guy, it makes me want to weep to say “no” to this caliber of people, but I also understand strategically we’re doing the right thing”. Michael Sam did not need anymore spotlight, and Bragman did an excellent job that they did their story to the fullest, and that they did it once. One and done. No need to milk your own story, especially you don’t really want the publicity that will naturally come with it.

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