Would Michael Sam Be a Raider in the Al Davis Era?


Al Davis, the once owner of the Oakland Raiders who passed away on October 8, 2011 and left the team to his son Mark Davis, was a true visionary and trail blazer in the way he handled business in the NFL. Al Davis was known for making big bold moves that didn’t sit well with national sports media. He was an owner that didn’t care about bad media coverage, as long as it was Raiders coverage.

Football moves like taking a punter in the first round in the 1972 NFL draft (who turned out to be NFL Hall of Famer Ray Guy) or bold business moves like making Amy Trask the first female CEO of an NFL sports team were just some examples of his boldness. So it makes me wonder, would Al Davis have taken a chance on the first openly gay football player in the NFL?

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My first reaction was no, Michael Sam was not a speed demon; he didn’t run the fastest 40 at the combine and was labeled as a “tweener” coming out of college. Sam was rated by some scouts as a player that wouldn’t even be drafted. Lucky for Sam, the St. Louis Rams took the chance late in the Draft.

Then I thought really hard about the situation, and it hit me! That’s exactly why Davis would’ve drafted Sam, and I believe he would’ve taken Sam as high as in the third round. Here’s why.

Davis was a Raider and made Raider moves. This was an owner that fought the NFL on numerous occasions in court. He was an owner who brought out projection screens to the media to show reasons why coaches needed to be fired, and he drafted players like Darrius Hayward-Bay and Sebastian Janikowski in the first round. So drafting the first openly gay football player, who was said to be undraftable, really wouldn’t have been a stretch.

Jerry Jones is a flashier version of Davis. They were friends, and both are known to have their own way of doing things, so it makes sense that Jones signed Sam. That’s something his friend and former NFL colleague Al Davis would’ve done. Would it have made football sense for the Raiders to take Sam in this past draft? I believe so.

Aug 23, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; St. Louis Rams defensive end Michael Sam (96) during warm ups before the game against the St. Louis Rams at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Having guys like LaMarr Woodley and Justin Tuck to learn from would’ve been perfect for Sam. It would’ve given him time to sit and learn behind capable Super Bowl winning veterans. Sam, the SEC Co-Defensive player of 2013, would’ve at least made this Raiders practice squad. Not only would it have made football sense, but it would’ve also been a great business move as well.

Having a team so close to San Francisco, which is known for its friendly and openly LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community, would’ve made the Raiders’ ticket and merchandise sales go up tremendously. The Raiders, who struggle with TV blackouts due to low ticket sales, could use any extra help they can get, and Sam would’ve helped in that department.

The Rams, who drafted Sam, had a four percent drop in ticket sales the day after drafting offensive tackle Greg Robinson and defensive tackle Aaron Donald in the first round, but they saw a 16.5 percent jump in sales the day after signing Sam. That’s the kind of jump the Raiders can only dream of seeing with their decade of losing seasons.

Davis, the coach and the business man, would’ve gladly spent a high pick on Sam.