Monday, February 10, 2014

Natural Experiment Du Jour: the next NFL Draft

The Michael Sam story is interesting for a variety of reasons, but let me just be a social science geek for a minute.  We have a "natural experiment" now.  A player who is clearly good enough to get drafted by an NFL team  just came out and told the world he is gay (which was going to come out anyway, given his stance within his college team...).  What does that do to his career?  Well, his stock has already dropped.

The question I am most interested in is this: what team will be confident enough to manage the hoopla to draft him?  Or as a former NFL player and tweeter extraordinaire, Dont'e Stallworth put it:
 Which team will draft Sam?  He is an undersized defensive end, so it may be the case that he is not so desirable by many teams.  So, the experiment here is not perfect--teams evaluate talent differently.  Is it about his overall record or is it about controlling for a few outstanding games?

Still, teams with weak organizations will avoid Sam.  Teams that lack confidence in their coach or in their players will avoid Sam.  Teams that are run by homophobes will avoid Sam.

So, drafting Sam will signal that the team is confident and needs under-sized defensive ends (or has confidence in their ability to turn Sam into a linebacker).

We live in interesting times.  The good news about this is that as someone remarked last night, the tables have turned--the homophobes have to watch what they say.  Woot!

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