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Michael Sam Waiting For An Invite In NFL Draft Spectacle


And, by the way, BJ Leiderman didn't write a single one of those songs. But he does write our theme music, including this one that says it's time for sports.


SIMON: Post season - sorry, basketball. Forget about it, hockey. For theatrics, we're watching football's off season. The spectacle that is the NFL draft enters its third day today and America wants to know, can it be as good as the Kevin Costner film? NPR's Tom Goldman joins us - any Kevin Costner film. Thanks for being with us, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: Fourth round begins today - most of the marquee names have already been called out. One player not drafted is Michael Sam, the SEC defensive player of the year. Of course, he came out earlier this year as the first openly gay NFL prospect. What are the prospects that he's going to be drafted? He'll be drafted.

GOLDMAN: Well, maybe. If he is drafted today, it's said that he will be drafted somewhere in the final three rounds. That's the fifth round through the seventh. He's down that low, Scott, because while he was a very good college player in his position of defensive lineman slash linebacker, he hasn't exactly wowed the scouts in the pre-draft workouts.

He is considered small for an NFL defensive lineman. And there are concerns he is not fast enough to play NFL linebacker. Now NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called his league the ultimate meritocracy. I thought that was NPR. If you've earned...

SIMON: (Laughing) I'm sorry, go ahead. That was very funny.

GOLDMAN: If you earned the right to get picked, you'll get picked. Goodell said about Michael Sam, I'm optimistic he'll get a chance.

SIMON: And of course, we should note, Johnny football didn't go until the 22nd. He was the 22nd pick.

GOLDMAN: That's right. Yeah.

SIMON: Create problems for the league if he goes undrafted - is that going to seem like the stain of bigotry?

GOLDMAN: Sure, that will happen. That argument will be made. The league will be blasted for being socially insensitive. But remember, if Sam doesn't get drafted today, he can still be invited to some team's camp as an undrafted free agent. He's already signed a big endorsement deal with Visa, so there's at least optimism in the business world that he'll end up playing somewhere.

SIMON: By the way, let's talk about the Los Angeles Clippers. Did you like that as a transition?

GOLDMAN: Excellent.

SIMON: Thank you. They played in LA last night, and Shelly Sterling was in attendance. She is the estranged wife of Donald Sterling, and has a 50 percent ownership of the team, regardless of what the league does to her husband. League announced yesterday, Richard Parsons, the former Time Warner CEO is going to lead the team. When Commissioner Silver banished her husband from basketball - and he's been lauded for that - did he make a mistake by forgetting about the fact that Donald Sterling doesn't own the team alone?

GOLDMAN: Well, if he forgot, he has certainly has been reminded this week. The spotlight, indeed, has shifted to Shelly Sterling. Her lawyers said this week, she wants to keep her 50 percent interest in the team. Although reportedly, Scott, she doesn't want to be the Clippers controlling owner which may open the window to compromise or it may not.

And there are some prominent voices saying they don't want any Sterlings associated with the team. Magic Johnson says none of the current Clippers players will play for the team if Mrs. Sterling keeps her stake. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti says we have to make a clean break - I'm quoting him here - he said as long as there's ownership in the Sterling family, there are fans, sponsors and players who will stay away.

SIMON: In the meantime, is all of the controversy driving up the price?

GOLDMAN: Well, not the controversy - I mean, if the controversy continues, it will drive down the price. So I think a lot of people feel that it's in...

SIMON: I guess I meant, the longer she holds out for a bargain, does that drive up the price?

GOLDMAN: Oh. The longer she holds out. Well, I think that will drive down the price because I think, you know, it's just going to cause so much upset with people.

SIMON: Three University of Oregon basketball players, Tom, have been dismissed from the team after being accused of sexual assault, though they were not charged in the court of law. Please walk us through what's happened now.

GOLDMAN: I can't. Well, I'll try very quickly. You know, it seems like a recurring story across the nation, but this one really has touched a nerve at Oregon. There were demonstrations on the U of O campus late this week and anger about the timing events and who knew what when. An incident - a sexual incident between three players and a woman making these allegations happened in early March.

University officials were aware of the allegations and a police investigation, but two of the three players were still allowed to play in the March madness tournament. Another element - one of the players involved transferred to Oregon from Providence College in January, even though he was under investigation for sexual assault at Providence. So a lot of questions still to be answered, a troubling case at Oregon.

SIMON: Yeah. And this is something college athletics has had to deal with increasingly, isn't it?

GOLDMAN: Well, it has. And this is playing against the backdrop of last week's report by the Department of Education citing colleges and universities under investigation for the way they handled sexual abuse claims.

SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

SIMON: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.