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Oprah Winfrey announces documentary series following the life of Michael Sam

St. Louis Rams draft pick Michael Sam addresses the media during a press conference at Rams Park on May 13, 2014 in Earth City, Missouri.
St. Louis Rams draft pick Michael Sam addresses the media during a press conference at Rams Park on May 13, 2014 in Earth City, Missouri.
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Michael Sam has made history by becoming the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team when the St. Louis Rams selected him with the 249th pick. But being drafted is just the beginning for Sam. He still has to make the team and cameras will follow that process. According to ESPN on Wednesday, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) has announced it has purchased the rights to a documentary series that will follow the life of Sam.

As Sam being drafted has opened up communications about homosexuality and perception, exposure is important when it comes to education and acceptance. Sam and the media has already received backlash from Sam kissing his boyfriend after finding out he was drafted. But those are the kind of moments OWN is hoping to capture.

The network said the working title for the series is “The Untitled Michael Sam Project.” This will not be a reality series, as the cameras will just follow Sam around as he sets out to make an NFL roster. Winfrey said in a statement that the network is honored to follow Michael Sam on his journey.

“I am proud of the focus on authentic storytelling in our new documentary series format. The next real-life story we follow in ‘The Untitled Michael Sam Project’ promises to spark valuable, important discussion on life in America today. Acceptance and illumination start here.”

But for some critics, Sam, by signing on to do this series, is doing exactly what he said he didn’t want to do and that is take the focus off of football. At the same time sharing his story could help others. As a seventh round pick, Sam had the second most popular jersey sold following draft weekend. That is because of the importance of him being drafted and the progress it symbolizes. Having the cameras following him throughout his life may seem like a contradiction to him just wanting to be seen as a football player, but it may also expose to the world Michael Sam as the man.

In response to the documentary and in what he hopes is gained from the series, Sam said in a statement, “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.”

Part of capturing dreams is capturing the high moments while also showcasing the low points. If Michael Sam does not make the roster of the St. Louis Rams, television will capture that also. In a way it will be more Sam’s determination and challenges that the network will follow in his pursuit to make his dreams a reality. In the process there might be some history made as well.

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