- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer
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Doesn't sound like it, so long as Sam has the skill set to play in the NFL.
"The Oakland Raiders have long championed diversity and opportunity," Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie said in a team-issued release Monday afternoon. "The organization will evaluate Michael Sam based purely on his ability as a football player."
Indeed, as an organization under the late Al Davis, the Raiders hired a Latino head coach in Tom Flores, who became the first minority head coach to win a Super Bowl as he won two, the first African-American head coach in modern NFL history in Art Shell, who was the league’s coach of the year in 1990, and the highest-ranking female executive in former CEO Amy Trask.
Sam, who was the SEC’s co-defensive player of the year with 11 ½ sacks and 19 tackles for a loss, would seem to fill a need for the Raiders, who are in search of an edge rusher. Plus, defensive ends Lamarr Houston, Jason Hunter and Vance Walker are all free agents.
Still, Oakland already has a project in Jack Crawford and the 6-feet-2, 260-pound Sam might be a bit undersized for the Raiders’ needs in their 4-3 defensive alignment. If he is still around in the later rounds of the draft, perhaps the Raiders take a shot.
Raiders players have been silent on their Twitter feeds regarding Sam’s announcement but Pro Bowl fullback Marcel Reece took part in a public service announcement last summer regarding gay athletes.
The theme was "If you can play, you can play," and Reece joined other Bay Area sports personalities such as San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, Oakland Athletics center fielder Coco Crisp, San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito, Golden State Warriors guard/forward Klay Thompson, San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton and San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski in the inclusivity-promoting PSA.