By Jim Thomas St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Rams coach Jeff Fisher remains angry over an ESPN report that dealt in part with the “showering habits” of defensive end Michael Sam by ESPN reporter Josina Anderson.
“I’m extremely disappointed in her piece,” Fisher told the Post-Dispatch on Wednesday, not long before the team boarded buses for Lambert Airport and the trip to Miami for Thursday’s preseason finale.
“I think it’s unethical,” Fisher continued. “I think it’s very, very unprofessional. Not only the piece itself, the content. The manner in which she did it.”
Fisher said he was made aware of the report Tuesday, has seen the report, and also has seen ESPN’s subsequent apology. Fisher did say he appreciated the apology.
And on Wednesday, the Rams organization received an additional apology in a phone call from John Wildhack, the head of production and programming for ESPN.
“We appreciate John Wildhack reaching out to us and apologizing, and their willingness to communicate and work through this with us,” Fisher said.
But part of the reason Fisher is upset with Anderson, he said, was that she contacted Rams players away from the facility for the story.
“We have a media policy, and we’re very flexible,” Fisher said. “We have open practices. Players are available. We have open locker rooms.
“Obviously she came in, in all likelihood to see if there was gonna be a roster move at the 75 cutdown as it relates to Mike Sam. That didn’t happen. But she needed to do something, and it’s my understanding that she manufactured this story.
“She was out of line because she went and contacted several players on their personal time. Misled them with questions and then put this piece together.”
During the report, Anderson said one Rams player told her that Sam was “respecting our space” when it came to showering, and may be waiting to take a shower so as not to make teammates feel uncomfortable.
A couple of other players told her they weren’t keeping track of Sam’s shower regimen.
“I’m disappointed for Mike,” Fisher said. “I’m disappointed for the players who she put in this position, and mostly I’m disappointed for her because she felt what she was doing was right — and it wasn’t right.”
Later Wednesday afternoon, ESPN senior vice president Rob King wrote in an email to the Post-Dispatch: “Josina Anderson is a trusted professional and a valued member of our team. What took place [Tuesday] was a collective failure to meet our standards and we will all be better going forward.”
Sam, in a tight battle with undrafted rookie Ethan Westbrooks for a final roster spot, is trying to become the first openly gay player to make an NFL roster.
Veteran defensive end Chris Long responded to Anderson’s report Tuesday on his Twitter account with a tweet that was blunt as could be: “Dear ESPN, Everyone but you is over it.”
It has been an interesting week for Sam; maybe a tough week.
Following Saturday’s preseason game in Cleveland, a game in which Sam drew cheers from the Rams’ bench for a sack of Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, Manziel told Cleveland reporters: “The guy (Sam) goes through a lot of stuff. He gets heckled by everybody, I’m sure.”
Actually, no one’s heckling Sam at Rams Park.