WASHINGTON — The kiss seen 'round the sports world on ESPN took quite a bit of planning and a whole lot of luck.
Like football fans everywhere, ESPN knew that Michael Sam, the first openly gay pro football prospect, was going to be the story of last week's NFL draft. What it didn't know was whether Sam would even be drafted, given the attention generated by the self-disclosure of his sexual orientation in February and his fading stock among draft watchers.
Nevertheless, ESPN's cameras were in place Saturday when St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher called Sam at his agent's house in San Diego to tell the former University of Missouri defensive lineman that they had selected him in the seventh and last round of the draft.
What the cameras caught next was something remarkable — and certainly rarely seen on Disney-owned ESPN: a tearful Sam receiving congratulations from his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano, complete with a kiss between the two men.
Congratulatory kisses are common in sports, although they usually occur between husbands and wives or boyfriends and girlfriends. This one drew alternating waves of shock, anger and gratitude from around the Twittersphere and elsewhere after ESPN aired it, on a tape-delayed basis, at 6:40 p.m. EST Saturday followed quickly by a replay on the NFL Network.
Some, like GLAAD (the organization formerly known as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination), said it was "a significant milestone," according to Ross Murray, its director of news. "It was touching," Murray said.
But many — including some players — recoiled: "Im not watching @espn until this Michael Sam story dies. It's gross. I'm not tryna watch 2 dudes kiss on a sports show," was one of the milder anti-Sam sentiments on Twitter. Miami Dolphins player Don Jones tweeted, "OMG," though he later deleted it, and another critical comment, and apologized.