In the middle of February, I published the blog “Football, Bullying and LGBT Diversity – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” (link). On the bad side, I highlighted the continuing unfolding saga of the bullying incidents with the Miami Dolphins, which has expanded to multiple people and to racial prejudice. On the good side, I wrote of Michael Sam, the University of Missouri All-American Defensive end who came out publicly as an “openly, proud gay man.”
Since that blog, Michael Sam spoke at a press conference on February 22 prior to the NFL Combine where the NFL teams “try out” various college players prior to the NFL draft. Sam received accolades for his candid and dignified handling of reporters’ questions. (Link to USA Today Article and Interview excerpts).
Some articles in the sports press believe that Sam could have reduced his ranking among NFL teams prior to the draft (which will be held at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall May 8-10) by his announcement. I beg to differ! NFL teams need to “think outside the typical hetero-dominated box” and consider the advantages of drafting Sam. I say “Fortunate is the team that drafts Sam!”
I offer three reasons why drafting Sam would be a most fortuitous move for any NFL team: economics, community relations and team success. In addition to getting an extremely talented and hard-working football player, let me expand:
1. Economics. A creative NFL team should market to a whole new segment. The LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) market segment in the US has over $830B in disposable according to Bob Witeck (Witeck Communications – link), one of the nation’s leading LGBT Marketing Consultants. In addition to spending millions of dollars on theatre, opera and WNBA season tickets, this segment can be purchasing season football tickets! NFL teams, get creative and sell to this huge lucrative segment.
2. Community Relations. Having the first out gay active NFL player on the team can greatly enhance community outreach programs including anti-bullying campaigns. As NFL teams routinely visit children in hospitals and inner-city school programs, they can deliver the message that all children can pursue any area where they have passion and talent. Gay teens do not need to join the drama club if they have the talent and interest to play football or basketball instead.
3. Team Success. The football team that drafts Sam can leverage the lesson that many large American businesses have learned long ago; that valuing the diversity and unique attributes of each team member and providing an affirming environment where each person can contribute their very best leads to better results. I bet the team that drafts Sam will get an extra boost by welcoming the NFL’s first out gay player and will coalesce into an awesome performing team.
If anyone reading this knows any NFL team general manager or owners, please send it to them prior to the draft. And of course I would be honored to be hired as the LGBT marketing / community relations / team building consultant to help the fortunate team that drafts Sam to get the most of their excellent decision.