When Michael Sam became the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL on Saturday, ESPN's broadcast captured the former Missouri star's reaction, which included a kiss with his boyfriend. The act triggered a great deal of response around the social media world, some of which was vitriolic in nature.
Cameron Weiss, Sam's agent, spoke out in support of his client on Monday, noting that Sam is well-equipped for all opinions ignited by St. Louis Rams' landmark decision.
"He's got really broad shoulders, he can handle this," said Weiss, per a TMZ.com report. "He understands people are going to say positive and negative things. He's the perfect person to handle this."
Weiss had a specific message for former Ole Miss basketball standout Marshall Henderson, who initially tweeted his objection to the kiss before claiming he was helping his friend with a psychology project:
"I think Marshall needs to look in the mirror if he's concerned about setting a bad example for his brothers," said Weiss.
Whether or not Henderson was actually being sincere, he was not the only athlete to publicly oppose the kiss. As reported by ESPN.com's James Walker, the Miami Dolphins fined safety Don Jones for offensive remarks he made toward Sam on Twitter, which have since been deleted. Jones also issued an apology.
Former NFL running back Derrick Ward reacted negatively to the display of affection as well:
Such comments from some had to be expected, but ultimately, those opinions matter little in comparison to those of Sam's new teammates and coaching staff. Rams head coach Jeff Fisher, for one, believes in his on-field talent, per ESPN's Colin Cowherd:
There is certainly merit to Fisher's statement given that Sam was the co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year as a senior for the Tigers. However, a lackluster workout at the NFL combine and teams' wariness of added media attention undoubtedly caused his draft stock to slip.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com was one of many to question the late selection:
Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman was told that one team ruled out taking Sam entirely:
The defensive end's draft slide—he was picked in the seventh and final round at No. 249 overall—has provided Sam with plenty of motivation to prove his critics wrong:
Even with his impressive collegiate career, Sam has to prove himself against heightened competition to make St. Louis' roster. The Rams are already loaded in the front seven with star defensive ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long, along with 2014 first-round defensive lineman Aaron Donald, but there should be a spot for Sam to contribute in Gregg Williams' aggressive defensive schemes.
While the media will continue to drive home the narrative of his sexuality, what Sam's NFL future will come down to is how he performs on the field.