Sports reporters generally don’t weigh-in on the shower habits of the athletes they cover, but ESPN’s Josina Anderson went there on Tuesday.
During a segment on “SportsCenter,” Anderson was asked how St. Louis Rams rookie defensive end Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team, was “fitting in” with his teammates.
Anderson quoted one of Sam’s teammates, fellow defensive lineman Kendall Langford, who said the rookie from Missouri is “simply just one of the guys.”
The reporter then relayed some observations from an anonymous Rams player, who said that Sam might be steering clear of the showers to avoid making his teammates uncomfortable. Langford and Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree, Anderson noted, said they hadn’t paid attention to Sam’s shower routine.
But another Rams defensive player told me that quote Sam is respecting our space and that from his perspective, he seems to think that Michael Sam is waiting to kind of take a shower as not to make his teammates feel uncomfortable while Langford and linebacker Alec Ogletree told me that they didn’t know that specifically and also weren’t tracking that. Now while Langford told me, ‘Listen, I have not been in the shower at the same time as Michael Sam,’ he said that there definitely could be a million reasons as to why that is. He said he could be doing extra work on the practice field, he could be riding his bike, he could be doing extra cardio, but overall Langford said he seems to be adjusting to the life in the NFL and the speed of the game.
Deadspin picked up Anderson’s report, quickly prompting an outpouring of criticism from several corners of the Internet.
Chris Long, a veteran defensive end for the Rams, mocked ESPN on Twitter.
“Dear ESPN, Everyone but you is over it,” Long wrote.
In fact, ESPN the Magazine ran a story just last month about showering in sports locker rooms, touching on Sam and his new team:
“His teammates’ reaction to showering with the first openly gay man in NFL history can best be summed up as one collective yawn. ‘Look, guys shower together,’ says Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar. ‘And Sam’s been showering with guys forever.’ ”
Anderson did not respond to TPM’s requests for comment but ESPN is now defending her reporting, insisting that she was not the one who brought up showering in her interviews with players.
“In response to recent questions about Michael Sam fitting in with the team, multiple Rams brought up the shower topic and we relayed that information as part of our reporting,” ESPN said in a statement provided to TPM.
A source at ESPN reiterated those same points in an email to TPM.
“We did not sensationalize the reporting. It was the last part of a news segment — not the headline or lead item in the report. … The player who answered our reporter’s question directly brought it up on his own – she asked how Michael Sam is fitting in,” the source said. “She did not ask a shower question. … Michael Sam wasn’t made available today for comment, so we didn’t have something directly from him on this.”
Sam came out publicly after wrapping up his senior season at the University of Missouri. He was drafted by the Rams in the 7th round and is currently fighting for a roster spot on the team.
A spokesperson for the team did not respond to TPM’s requests for comment.