February 10, 2014

The NFL’s first openly gay draft candidate and the Vikings’ image problem

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:11

It’s likely to be a very tense day in the public relations office of the Minnesota Vikings, after Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam came out … and the jokes started about the only team in the league that wouldn’t draft him. At The Viking Age, Dan Zinski rounds up the first crop of jokes and rumours:

News broke late Sunday afternoon of former Missouri defensive lineman and current NFL draft prospect Michael Sam’s decision to come out as a gay man. Immediately the jabs started appearing on Twitter, the great social media instant pop culture temperature gauge.

“Well, I know the Vikings won’t be drafting Michael Sam,” tweeted @dbaby_23.

“I’m going to go out on a limb and say Michael Sam will not be drafted by the Vikings,” tweeted @ChrisJamesMMA.

“100000 dollars says the vikings dont draft michael sam,” tweeted @sports_scene.

“I bet Michael Sam would make a great special teams player for the vikings!” tweeted @MattesonTrevor.

“well you know the Vikings aren’t gonna draft Michael Sam,” tweeted @Miyag_e.

And on and on in that vein.

Endless jokes about how the Vikings will never draft Michael Sam because they have an openly homophobic coach on their staff.

Completely unfair jokes, because Mike Priefer, even if he thinks the things Chris Kluwe says he thinks, doesn’t speak for the team. He only speaks for himself.

But still, it’s out there. It’s in people’s minds. The Vikings are guilty of homophobia, if only by association.

A willing association with a man whose public image is, justly or unjustly, that of a bigot.

The timing couldn’t be much worse for the Vikings: they had an ongoing investigation into Chris Kluwe’s accusations against Mike Priefer, but they also had a new coaching staff being hired. They couldn’t just part company with Priefer while the investigation was underway for fear of being sued for wrongful dismissal. If the investigation sustains Kluwe’s side of the story, the team can discipline or dismiss Priefer with a clear conscience (assuming that the investigation isn’t a whitewash from the start), but if they clear Priefer of any wrongdoing, they’ll probably take an even worse beating in the court of public opinion … at least until the next NFL scandal comes up.

The media attention on the story of the first openly gay NFL player (assuming he’ll be drafted, that is) won’t be over quickly. The Vikings can only hope that their share of the attention will quickly diminish.

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