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Making Sense of the Michael Sam Kiss

May 15, 2014

Credit espn

A football player kisses his partner when he gets the news that he's been drafted by an NFL team.

What's the big deal?

Well, it was Michael Sam, becoming he first openly gay man to be drafted by the NFL. And he was kissing his boyfriend Vito Cammisano.

Twitter and other social media lit up after ESPN broadcast the moment -- over and over and over again.

Miami Dolphins defensive back Don Jones was fined for sending out tweets critical of Michael Sam and the kiss.

He tweeted things like "OMG" and "Horrible."

Others tweeted worse. Many tweeted their support for Sam.

"The fact is a handful of people expressed dismay and some people expressed actual hate speech on Twitter. Many, many more people expressed support for Michael Sam, and encouragement," said Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's Sense-Making Project. "And this is part of the problem with Twitter and all social media. We can focus on whatever part we want to focus on and we tend to focus on the most negative parts, even when it doesn't express the overall expression."

Was the kiss when Michael Sam learned -- late in the draft -- that he had been picked by the St. Louis Rams an historical moment worthy of such coverage?

"Yeah, I mean if you look at that video this is something that we don't see very often," McBride explained. "It was a genuine, spontaneous, emotionally packed moment. It's rare to see that with heterosexual couples let alone a gay couple. It's just something we don't see a lot of in media mostly because most of what we see is so incredibly staged."

Still, ESPN took a some criticism for playing the Sam kiss video so much.

"Well, that's what ESPN does," said McBride. "They find these moments or these personalities and they just play the heck out of 'em. So, sure they overplayed it, because they're ESPN."