Marshall Henderson caused quite a stir on social media Monday morning when he tweeted that he was “boycotting SportsCenter” until ESPN stopped airing video of St. Louis Rams draftee Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend.
The former Ole Miss basketball star later tweeted, though, that his initial comments were a sort of social experiment conducted on behalf of a friend — a situation he discussed further Monday afternoon in an interview with ESPN.
“My stance on gay athletes is irrelevant,” Henderson said. “The whole reason we chose to do this is because my friend is gay. If it was wrong for me to do it, so be it.”
Henderson, knowing his status as a lightning rod for controversy, said he used the tweets about Sam to allow his friend, who has not yet come out as gay, to gauge the public’s reaction.
“I knew I was sticking my neck out there doing it, but I wanted to see how people reacted,” Henderson said. “What better way to get research and feedback than to do it like I did. Everything I did is a psychologist and educator’s dream.
“He’s scared,” Henderson added about his friend. “He hasn’t come out of the closet. His family doesn’t know. The point of this was to see the reaction and if he could feel more comfortable in his coming-out process.”
Sam was drafted in the seventh round (No. 249 overall) on Saturday. His Rams jersey ranked second in sales among NFL rookies, behind Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, as of Monday morning.