In the middle of the latest John Cena revival, Bella Twins disfunction, and Zack Ryder mauling, WWE did a curious thing last night on Monday Night Raw. They invited Michael Sam, the NFL's first openly gay player, to come to Raw next week. Sam, recently released by the St. Louis Rams, has been at the center of a media whirlwind as major outlets have their eyes peeled on his every move due to his high visibility. ESPN, for one, has been enamored with him, with reporter Josina Anderson going so far as to report on Sam's shower habits.
So why is the WWE inviting a football player to come to Monday Night Raw? Are they relaunching the XFL? Will Sam wrestle? No, the WWE is inviting Michael Sam to Raw to speak about being a gay athlete and the struggles he has to overcome. In an open letter to Sam, WWE CBO Stephanie McMahon writes,
Exhibiting class and dignity rarely shown in professional sports, WWE invites you to next Monday's RAW to speak of your struggles to succeed, lessons you have learned along the way, the courage it takes to be yourself and the prospects of your continued journey.
You are a role model, who by example can encourage everyone to stand up and openly be themselves.
Make no mistake, Michael Sam is definitely a role model for not only the gay community, but anyone who believes in being themselves and his experiences can certainly provide a roadmap to those troubled by who they are. With that said, there is almost no chance that the WWE is legitimately interested in promoting Sam's story for the inspiration it can provide. WWE is interested in ratings and publicity.
To be blunt, the WWE has spent two weeks shoving the Bella Twins and their horrible acting down the throats of fans and, after writing last night's Raw, must have looked up and said "Wait!? Monday Night Football starts next week!"
That's right, the WWE just so happened to invite the one NFL player the media is fawning over (not named Manziel) to their show on the night the NFL returns to the field. It's a shameful publicity stunt, point blank. Even more insulting is that WWE has an active member of their roster, albeit currently injured, that came out last year. Darren Young, formerly of The Primetime Players and The Nexus, came out almost exactly one year ago. He has been seen working with WWE's own Be A Star, attended the Gaymer X convention, and has been a large advocate for the gay community on social media.
As the WWE struggles to gain footing with the WWE Network, a new television deal, and an evolving roster, harkening back to the late-Attitude Era of publicity stunts (remember the Billy and Chuck wedding that was all over the news?) is a classless move the WWE doesn't have to make.
This isn't about Michael Sam. This isn't about the gay community. This is about ratings.
WWE has a long history of helping worthy causes and inspiring millions around the globe, be they any race, any sexuality, or any other classification that we tend to use in this country. They've proven time and time that they're better than this. Here's hoping they reconsider this stunt and work with Michael Sam, if he chooses, and Darren Young, to provide real advocates for the gay community and make the difference they have the power to make.