When the Dallas Cowboys signed Michael Sam during the 2014 NFL season, owner Jerry Jones said the defensive end’s sexuality was a “dead issue.”
As it turns out, there’s a back story to those remarks.
The Washington Post recently published a long expose on Jones and his failure to promote Black coaches within the Cowboys organization, including a never-before-seen photograph of a high school-aged Jones standing with a group of White students blocking Black teens who were attempting to enter his desegregated high school in Little Rock, Ark.
Within the piece, writers David Maraniss and Sally Jenkins include an anecdote about how a closeted ex-NFL player asked Jones to publicly support Sam.
“When Michael Sam was preparing to become the first openly gay player to enter the NFL draft in 2014, a closeted former player asked to meet with owners to discuss homophobia,” they write. “Pointing straight at Jones, the ex-player said, ‘This issue would go away if Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys will draft him.’”
While the Rams drafted Sam, the Cowboys signed him to their practice squad in September 2014. They released Sam the following month.
Jones says the former player’s request speaks to the power of the Cowboys’ brand, and the role the organization can play in disproving stereotypes. “The Dallas Cowboys — not anybody else,” he said.
In addition to Sam, the Cowboys have had at least two more gay or bisexual players: Jeff Rohrer and RK Russell. In fact, the team has quite the gay history.
Of course, the irony may be lost on Jones that he was promoting the Cowboys’ inclusion efforts in an article about the lack of advancement Black coaches receive in his organization.