Michael Sam moves in on Johnny Manziel.

The prospects of Michael Sam as a Green Bay Packer

With Michael Sam sharing with the world that he is gay, new pages in the NFL history books are being written.

From the four letter network to Twitter, the sports world is abuzz with opinions and observations concerning how Sam will integrate into the NFL. This got me thinking about how Sam would be received by the Green Bay Packers and Packers Nation.

I’ll get right to the point. I think if there is one organization and one fan base that would treat Michael Sam with the respect he deserves it’s the Green Bay Packers.

There is a phrase that is often stated regarding how the Packers go about their business. This phrase embraces prudence, reverence and above all, winning football games. Put simply, that phrase is “The Packer Way.”

The seeds of the Packer Way were sown by the legendary Vince Lombardi. His philosophies on both football and life are deeply engrained into the culture of the Green Bay Packers.

Vince Lombardi

Vince Lombardi

Lombardi was the coach and general manager in Green Bay from 1959 to 1968. His career straddled some of the most volatile moments of race relations in American history. Lombardi’s stance against prejudice is well chronicled.

Jerry Kramer made note of it in his iconic book, “Instant Replay.” Kramer tells a story of a time the team played an exhibition game in the South and the restaurant insisted that the black players enter and exit through the back door. Lombardi then proceeded to walk the whole team through the back door.

Kramer went onto write, “Vince doesn’t care what color a man is as long as he can play football, as long as he can help us win, and all the players feel the same way. That’s what being a Green Bay Packer is all about—winning—and we don’t let anything get in the way of it.”

In a recent interview, Willie Davis spoke about a conversation he had with Lombardi early on his career with the Packers. Davis relayed that Vince Lombardi was concerned with having the best football players on the field, not whether they were black or white.

Screen Shot 2013-12-26 at 1.40.44 PMIn the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Tom Silverstein relayed the sentiment of current Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy regarding Michael Sam. McCarthy stated, “Ted (Thompson) and them are going through the draft process right now. At the end of the day, it comes down to good football players. Any player who can come here, be a good teammate, follow the rules of our program, which is one, be respectful and produce on the football field, we have room for that guy.” McCarthy also complimented Sam on his courage.

Though the issues that Lombardi and McCarthy had and have to address are different, they are both fundamentally about the same thing, which is the acceptance of human differences. From McCarthy’s response one can glean that the principle’s put forward by Lombardi are still held in high regard today in Green Bay.

Michael Sam having the mettle to be who he is and not conceal a basic function of his human experience is admirable. All of us know that there will be more than a few fans, players and coaches that will think less of Sam because he is gay. They will think he is weak in some way. But I would say to play a sport that requires a warrior mentality and do so without feeling shame for his sexual orientation makes him the toughest man on the field.

Most importantly, if he can get after the quarterback and take some pressure off of Clay Matthews I would be more than happy to have Sam in Green and Gold.

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Tags: Green Bay Packers Michael Sam Mike McCarthy Vince Lombardi

  • JaKa

    Camaraderie was the first word I thought of, when I heard Sam came out, so to speak. Not a preconceived notion that Sam would have the easy going, light hearten bond good teams keep in the locker room all broken up, rather that a few elements of prejudiced individuals would create an atmosphere forming sides of the accepted and unaccepted. You’re references back to Vince Lombardi are absolutely true. Lombardi, during days of unrest and social change only beginning in race injustice was smart enough to know talent held no colors. Putting the best on the field was acceptable and prudent, even in an early 1960s pro football team. So, what’s the problem in bringing in Sam to any team now? If I may play devils advocate, here goes:

    Homosexuality in the American culture was considered a mental illness throughout American history all the time up until the late “60′s. Believe it or not, it’s true. Many were holding on to the old belief through that time, for decades, and I’m sure some still hold on to it. Some of those fathers have children now of age to become pro players, and have raised their sons on their own beliefs. I’m afraid it only takes one bad apple… and if that bunch is a locker room of pro football players, I wouldn’t want to take a chance on having the bunch go foul. Accepting color is a totally different matter. We are not born with the ability to choose our color of skin. We are born with the ability to chose sexual orientation, no matter how hard it may be for some not to indulge in, or try to indulge in any certain practice of that sexual nature. To stand in a “neutral zone” watching the American society and changes that went with it, or didn’t go with it, it’s safe to say the NFL was one of the last stronghold of the old traditional man is man and women are women attitude a great percentage of participants held as an icon to the public. Only after the public has changed, and it has, will it ever be acceptable to the peers within the league or any given team. A bold move for Sam? Sure was. The Packers biggest need has Sam written all over. His numbers can make a coach drool over the prospect of having a talent that strong on the team.

    One or two guys in a locker room start it going with a couple jokes, then “gay” jokes… things continue and attitudes begin to surface some indifferent, but some not. Sound the Alarm! The Camaraderie is being downgraded. This is the fear a team needs to address, or prepare to live with and lose games. Every winning team has that bond, and lowers any chance of winning when it breaks. The front office by way of policy and attitude towards prejudicial behaviors towards or even a slanted approach between non-participants will upset the balance of the chemistry within. That all is not a daunting obstacle, nor even should it be a big concern. It does need to be addressed by every team in such a position, just as you can be sure race was addressed on teams in the last half of the 20th century. The awkwardness of things in this area is that the generation as a whole Sam is from seems totally accepting to the gay lifestyle, why those in control, several generations older, are the older owners and perhaps coaches of senor team personnel. These are the teams overseer’s who must take responsibility for maintaining a state of harmony within the team, before things heat up.

    With those considerations, Sam may have come out at just the right time. Even with them, being a spring-board for others, some meeting success, and others difficulties that lie ahead or behind him. As things appear now, Sam may have paved the way for all those behind him to follow the winding road of modern life in the NFL, in a society that slowly accepts change. Without upper level team support, a team could easily be torn in two, some taking sides, some destroying that camaraderie in creating ‘sides’ of a matter that should not be considered or tolerated.

    • Jerico Biermann

      You lost me at bad apple, Terrell Owens was a bad apple…Randy Moss was a Bad Apple…Sam is not bad, he was voted best player in the best conference of college football. Mizzou was a top team all year. His coaches and players knew in August he was gay. Your long winded self absorbed comment was a waste of typing time.

    • Peter Maiz

      Gays are born gays say all scientific articles.

    • Bill DiCecca

      When did YOU choose, @Jaka ? At exactly which point in time did you finally buckle down and say, “man, those guys are HOT, but I think I’ll go with the ladies”? My guess is never. It was NEVER a choice. Neither for you nor for this brave soul. I’d be proud to have him as a Packer, and if that anonymous GM is correct and the SEC DPOY doesn’t get drafted, I need to reconsider whether I want to support this league.