GREENWICH, Conn. -- It may be no surprise that Johnny Manziel is leading all rookies in the sale of NFL jerseys after "Johnny Football" dominated college football headlines for two years. But many in Stamford and Greenwich were surprised that last-round pick Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL player, is right behind Manziel in sales.
Manziel was drafted in the first round and 22nd overall by the Cleveland Browns. Sam was taken by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh and last round, the 249th pick out of 256.
Mark Bisanzo, owner and CEO of Bruce Park Sports at 104 Mason St. in Greenwich, said he’s thinking of ordering Manziel jerseys, but he's unsure whether stocking a Sam jersey will help sales. He also said he can’t make a decision until when, or if, Sam makes the St. Louis Rams.
“I don’t know if he will make a team,” Bisanzo said. “I don’t know if a parent would buy their son a jersey of an openly gay man.”
Although Bisanzo said he applauded Sam’s decision to come out as a gay man well before the draft, he said he has to weigh whether hanging his jersey on the wall will bring in more business.
“I’m not here to put something on the wall to make a social commentary. I am here to sell things,” Bisanzo said. As a businessman, he said he has to avoid selling items that will annoy his customers, such as a player who espouses strong political views.
“You want to avoid politics, sex and drugs. The three things you avoid as a dinner topic,” he said. “You don’t want someone coming in and saying, ‘Why do have that?’ All it’s going to do is polarize the store.”
The jersey of Super Bowl-winning Seattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson is the single biggest seller in the store, Bisanzo said.
Pat Cecio, owner of All-Sports Apparel at 146 Sound Beach Ave. in Old Greenwich, said Manziel, Sam and NFL stars on other teams mean little to him. The only jerseys that sell well, he said, are those for the players with the New York Giants, New York Jets or New England Patriots, Cecio said.
He also pointedly noted that Sam is a last round pick. “He hasn’t made the team,” Cecio said.
For Cecio, it doesn’t make sense to stock a large number of football jerseys in his compact shop, because many people are buying online.
“People are going to NFL.com. So I don’t bother getting them,” he said.
At Modell’s Sporting Goods at 2113 Summer St. in Stamford, manager Wilfredo Carasco said there has been no demand for either a Manziel jersey or a Sam jersey, nor has there been much talk about them.
As he walked over to the section of the wall where jerseys of the Giants Eli Manning and Victor Cruz, the Jets Geno Smith and the Patriots Tom Brady hang, Carasco said it’s the jerseys of an icon in another sport that are moving.
“(New York Yankees) Derek Jeter’s sweaters are selling well because it is his last year.”
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