COLUMBIA — Michael Sam likely didn’t announce he is gay to boost his marketability.
But that might be one positive side effect.
Sam, who joined Twitter on Saturday and gained nearly 70,000 followers since his Sunday announcement, now has a status and platform that might attract corporations.
NFL agent David Canter said the financial implications of Sam’s announcement are a crucial part of the discussion.
“We’re in the business of football,” Canter said Monday in a phone interview. “This is a professional business that makes $10 billion a year. To say that a pro football player can come out as publicly homosexual and not talk about the dollars and cents of it is just being very, very nearsighted.”
Sam's agents, Cameron Weiss and Joe Barkett of Empire Athletes, could not be reached for comment Monday. In a story on ESPN.com, Barkett hinted at the interest in Sam as a spokesman.
"We told him that there is going to be a storm of people and companies that are going to want to get a piece," Barkett said. "He has a willingness to do deals, but that's obviously not what drove this."
Barkett also told ESPN that Sam is "not going to sign 12 deals" and that his immediate marketing reach will only include a shoe and apparel deal.
But the potential may be greater.
Canter estimates that Sam's agency could have received "60 to 100" calls on Monday, if they handled the marketing side a certain way. And he thinks Sam could "easily" make $2 million in endorsements, being the first openly gay player in the NFL.
“I don’t represent Coca-Cola or Pepsi or Nike or Adidas or some of these companies, but certainly getting endorsement deals when you’re as visible as he has become instantaneously, and as eloquent and good-looking and well-spoken, as great a head on his shoulders as he has — to me, it’s a no-brainer,” he said.
Openly gay Major League Soccer player Robbie Rogers said he saw no change in his endorsements when he began playing as a gay athlete.
“There’s been a few gay underwear brands that have asked me to do stuff, but I said no,” he said.
But the MLS does not have the marketing scope of the NFL.
Canter believes Sam’s brand has tremendous financial potential off the field, but it is still dependent on him finding success on it.
“That’s certainly going to be part and parcel of it,” he said. “Is he going to be marketed tomorrow morning on Peyton Manning’s level? No.”
While the announcement might boost Sam's endorsement pull, it could also jeopardize his draft stock.
Canter said that roughly seven years ago, he represented a closeted NFL player who was cut the day after his teammates learned of his sexuality.
Although all signs point to progressive changes within the last seven years, Sam's decision to come out — especially as a yet-to-be-proven NFL player — is still gutsy in Canter's eyes.
“The fact that he did this when he’s not financially secure, is, to me, just incredible,” Canter said. “There are definitely homosexual men playing in the NFL right now with far more financial security than Michael Sam who have chosen to not do this."
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.