The Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN, has postponed its plans to make a documentary series on Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player who was recently drafted into the NFL by the St. Louis Rams, so that he can focus on football, the network and a representative for Sam confirmed Friday.
"After careful consideration and discussion with the St. Louis Rams, 'The Untitled Michael Sam Project' has been postponed, allowing Michael the best opportunity to achieve his dream of making the team," Erik Logan, president of OWN, reportedly said in a statement.
"OWN is about elevating and empowering people to achieve their best. It's clear that we, along with the world, recognize the important opportunity that Michael now has in this moment. We will continue to support him in his journey to earn a spot playing for the Rams."
Cameron Weiss, Sam's agent, also reportedly said: "After today's meeting with the Rams, we felt it is best to postpone the project. This will allow for Michael to have total focus on football, and will ensure no distractions to his teammates. Everybody involved remains committed to this project and understands its historical importance as well as its positive message."
OWN announced that "The Untitled Michael Sam Project,” to be produced by Emmy-winning producer Craig Piligian’s Pilgrim Studios and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Amy Rice, would bring to light the former University of Missouri football player and his historic journey “as he prepares to enter the biggest professional sports league in America.”
Rice, Ralph Wikke and Mitch Rosa will be co-executive producers for the series, while Cameron Weiss, Joe Barkett and Howard Bragman will be producers.
The Rams and NFL reportedly said that they did not know anything about the TV project in advance. "We learned of this in the days after the draft," Brian McCarthy, a spokesperson for NFL, reportedly said, adding that OWN had no agreement to use footage from the league.
Oprah Winfrey said about Sam’s docu-series in a statement on Wednesday: “We are honored that Michael is trusting us with his private journey in this moment that has not only made history but will shape it forever.”
Sam, who made public his sexual identity in February, said in the statement: “Like every player out there working to make a team right now, my focus is on playing football to the very best of my ability.”
"I am determined. And if seeing my story helps somebody else accept who they are and to go for their dreams too, that’s great. I am thankful to Oprah for her support and excited to work together.”