CNN Crossfire host Newt Gingrich accused newly-drafted NFL player Michael Sam of "manipulating the system" and expressed concern for people offended by the sight of Sam kissing his boyfriend after being selected by the St. Louis Rams over the weekend.
"You guys talk about how you want to be inclusive," Gingrich told co-host Van Jones and network contributor Jamal Anderson, adding that when people post homophobic remarks online, "then having a death threat or 'let's send them off to sensivitity training.' It strikes me, that's repression, that's not inclusive."
"Is it repression to try to teach them to be understanding and open to other people?" said Anderson, who played in the NFL for eight seasons. "Especially when you're talking about people they've not be exposed to?"
"But shouldn't you be teaching people who are gay to be open and understanding?" Gingrich responded.
Gingrich was specifically concerned about reported death threats against another former player, Derrick Ward, following Ward's statements on Twitter that Sam was "no bueno" for kissing boyfriend Vito Cammisano on the air and chiding ESPN for televising the moment because "U [sic] got little kids lookin at the draft." A current player, Miami's Don Jones, was fined and ordered to complete separate training by the team after making similar remarks.
However, the failed Republican presidential candidate did not mention the barrage of homophobic remarks posted online regarding Sam's show of affection toward Cammisano.
"I think that people who are gay and people who are lesbians have to spend their entire lives learning how to get around the minefields," Jones said, rebutting Gingrich. "This whole term, 'out of the closet,' is a reflection of the fact that they have to deal with those kinds of minefields."
Later, Gingrich seemed to refer to the entire story of Sam becoming the first openly gay pro football player as a "fiasco."
"You've got this clever young guy who has manipulated the system brilliantly," he told Jones. "Just watch the Visa commercial."
Gingrich was referring to a newly-released commercial featuring Sam lifting weights and asking fans to judge him based on his performance on the field.
"I don't think you can say he's manipulated the situation," Anderson told a grinning Gingrich. "Understand the immense amount of bravery it takes to come forth and to come out as a player."
Watch the discussion, as aired on Monday, below.