Michael Sam became the first openly gay NFL player, a Twitter target for Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones, and a Visa spokesperson this week, all within a matter of days.
Sam, a former University of Missouri defensive end who in February announced he was gay
, was drafted by the St. Louis Rams on Saturday in the seventh round of the NFL Draft. He was the 249th overall pick
Two days before he made history in the NFL, Visa announced they signed Sam to represent the credit card company, quickly releasing a commercial, featured below, that reinforced the player's desire to be judged on his performance on the field rather than his sexual preference.
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"We felt that Michael's story was a perfect fit for our 'everywhere' campaign, which is meant to inspire people to reach their own personal goals and aspirations," Visa's chief marketing officer Kevin Burke told ESPN.com
. "We wish Michael the best on and off the field as he embarks on the next chapter of his life."
Aside from the preemptive endorsement deal, it was the negative social media response to Sam's reaction to the draft that garnered much of the media's attention over the weekend.
As his name was read, Sam embraced his boyfriend, 23-year-old Vito Cammisano, with a kiss that was caught on camera by ESPN and later tweeted out.
The celebratory tweet was met with a disrespectful response from fellow NFL player Don Jones, who posted the words "OMG" and "Horrible" on his own Twitter feed. Jones soon after removed the tweet but not before Dolphins management saw it. The player was later fined and banned from participating in team activities until he undergoes educational training, The Sun Sentinel reported
"I want to apologize to Michael Sam for the inappropriate comments that I made last night on social media," Jones said in a team-issued statement Sunday night. "I take full responsibility for them and I regret that these tweets took away from his draft moment."
"We were disappointed to read Don's tweets during the NFL Draft," Dolphins' head coach Joe Philbin said in the statement. "They were inappropriate and unacceptable, and we regret the negative impact these comments had on such an important weekend for the NFL. We met with Don [Sunday] about respect, discrimination, and judgment."
Jones' comments were joined on Twitter by former New York Giants running back Derrick Ward, who criticized ESPN's decision to air the kiss between Sam and his boyfriend.
"Man U got little kids lookin at the draft," Ward wrote on Twitter Saturday. "I can’t believe ESPN even allowed that to happen."
Unlike Jones, Ward did not back down from his comments, but rather defended them by claiming that his disgust was based on the act itself and not that they were two men kissing.
"Everyone who comments on my page saying what dude did (sic) was fine is getting blocked," Ward continued on Twitter. "So far I’ve blocked 10 people."
"[Putting] your tongue into the other person’s mouth is a little overboard. But people seen that as oh i’m bashing him because he’s gay (sic). Who cares!!!" Ward added.
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