ESPN issued an apology on Wednesday for its recent coverage of defensive end Michael Sam’s bid to make the St. Louis Rams’ roster. The sports network generated outrage on Tuesday after reporter Josina Anderson talked to several Rams players about the openly gay rookie’s shower habits.
“ESPN regrets the manner in which we presented our report,” the network said in a statement. “Clearly yesterday we collectively failed to meet the standards we have set in reporting on LGBT-related topics in sports.”
On a Tuesday-morning edition of “SportsCenter,” Anderson reported live from the Rams’ training camp facility about how Sam was getting along with his teammates ahead of the franchise’s first major round of preseason cuts. Veteran Rams defensive lineman Kendall Langford referred to Sam as “just one of the guys,” but the rest of Anderson’s segment was met with nearly universal scorn, particularly among social media users.
“Another Rams defensive player told me that ‘Sam is respecting our space,’” Anderson reported. “From his perspective, he seems to think that Michael Sam is waiting to take a shower, as not to make his teammates feel uncomfortable, while Langford and linebacker Alec Ogletree told me that they didn’t know that specifically and also weren’t tracking it.”
Almost immediately, the ESPN report on Sam’s shower habits became a viral topic of conversation on Twitter. Furious users condemned the network for setting aside airtime for an issue that had no bearing on whether or not Sam would make the Rams roster.
At least one member of the Rams roster disapproved of ESPN’s coverage. “Dear ESPN, Everyone but you is over it,” star defensive end Chris Long wrote on Twitter. As of Wednesday, the tweet received over 14,000 retweets and 11,000 favorites.
Dear ESPN, Everyone but you is over it.
— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) August 26, 2014
The Rams coaching staff announced on Tuesday night that Sam had survived its initial round of cuts and would remain on the roster. The 23-year-old’s next test will come on Saturday, when St. Louis further trims its roster to 53 players ahead of the 2014 NFL season.