BEHIND THE STORY: The Michael Sam story began brewing in August

Sunday, February 9, 2014 | 10:40 p.m. CST; updated 2:50 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 20, 2014

The storm broke on Sunday night.

The first signs blew in with a vague idea.

In August, grad student Erik Hall wanted to try to localize Russian president Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay propaganda stance for the then upcoming Winter Games in Sochi Russia.

I wasn’t interested.  The story was vague and lacked the specifics that could interest our readers.  We decided the story would be better if we could interview some local gay athletes.

OK, now who were they?

Hall went to work. And he came back with some names.

One of them was Michael Sam.

I was interested.

He called Sam and asked if he would agree to an interview to talk about his sexuality.

Sam agreed.

Then he changed his mind.

Then he agreed.

Then he changed his mind.

One Friday night, Sam even set an interview time for 7 p.m. I drove home to have dinner with my wife, fully expecting to drive back to the newsroom late to edit the story.

But Sam said that he had to talk with a team representative. Then he changed his mind again.

That’s how it went. Sam never refused to do the interview, just said, “He wasn’t ready.”

At one point, he even suggested that “we were trying to out him.”

We weren’t. As far as we were concerned, only one person could out him, and that was Sam.

The interview didn’t happen.  So the story didn’t happen. We could’ve written the story. Other journalists might have written the story. But it wasn’t the right thing to do. We decided that we needed Sam.

Truth be told, Sam’s sexuality was never that much of a secret. Even before Sunday night when he became the most famous football player in America, it wasn’t hard to discover that he was gay.

A simple Internet search turned up more than enough rumors. Chat boards buzzed. He revealed his sexuality to his fellow defensive players back in the preseason. He frequented local gay bars.

When Sam embraced coach Gary Pinkel after the Texas A&M game, Missouri’s last home game of the season, he was clearly wearing a rainbow-colored gay pride bracelet on his right hand.

But we didn’t have the interview, so we didn’t have the story.

We checked back in with Sam from time to time. He wasn’t ready. The story didn’t break.

We learned on Friday that ESPN was scheduled to do an “Outside the Lines” episode with Sam. We called his publicist, and he agreed to have Sam call us Monday afternoon as the episode was broadcast. We waited.

Sunday night, the story broke from a number of spots, including ESPN and The New York Times.

The story exploded on Twitter. ESPN was doing live shots in downtown Columbia.

“This is the most important story in the history of gay sports,” chortled Cyd Zeigler publisher of, a website that covers gay sports.

Sam, who had finally agreed to a telephone interview with the Missourian on Monday afternoon, finally did one Sunday night — six months after we first asked for one.

That’s when the storm broke.

We saw it coming since August.

Greg Bowers is sports editor of the Columbia Missourian.

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