The Detroit Lions and team president Tom Lewand recently issued a public statement in support of Michael Sam joining the team. As most of us know by now, Sam came out as gay on Sunday in a nationally televised interview. The debate surrounding the first openly-gay player in an NFL locker room has seen both sides of the issue discussed ad nauseum. For Sam, the former Missouri Tigers defensive end, he would want nothing to do with the Lions.
His ability is not questioned as he earned Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC with 11.5 sacks and other big plays; his fit in the Lions’ culture is the problem. The Lions’ best defensive player is Ndamukong Suh, who sadly has a history of poor behavior towards other players and even his own teammates. Whether Suh tries to portray himself as better than everyone on the Lions or just earns a reputation as a stupid player known for making dumb mistakes at the most inopportune times, he is not the teammate Sam would want to line up next to. If Suh can’t keep his cool on the field against opponents and has a superiority complex in his own locker room, he would be a terrible teammate to Sam.
Like most analysts have said, Sam needs to be in the perfect locker room with the perfect culture in order for him to be a successful teammate and player. Detroit’s locker room and culture is in need of a major makeover, and Sam would not fit on a team that struggles to fix their own issues. The only silver lining for Sam’s prospects in Detroit is that he doesn’t have to go through the Jim Schwartz era where the locker room was run by the players. I hope that Sam gets a chance to play in the NFL and the game that he loves, but Detroit would not be a good fit for this highly publicized prospect.