Monday, July 21, 2014

Dungy's Galling Comments Send Wrong Message

Tony Dungy
Picture from Facebook
Tony Dungy has succeeded on his own terms over the years becoming the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl. Long before his team won the Super Bowl, Dungy waited for a long time and was passed over many times for coaching positions despite the fact that he was one of the best assistants in the league. 

Eventually, he got his chance with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and turned that franchise around. He picked up where Jim Mora left off in Indy, and the Colts became one of the most successful franchises in history.

Dungy knows about being a trailblazer.

Through all of this, Dungy has advocated for men to be responsible fathers. He has never been afraid to speak out, and I commend him for that. He’s also been very up front about his faith, and I also have no problem with that.

On the negative side, Dungy has headlined fundraisers for organizations that actually work against equality for LGBT Americans. He was a very public backer of Indiana’s amendment banning same sex marriage.

The Tampa Tribune published an article about changes the NFL is making in the expected conduct of players, and Dungy was a prominent individual interviewed in the piece. Dungy made it clear that he would not have taken openly-gay player Michael Sam as the St. Louis Rams did, in his words, “…Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it.”
“It’s not going to be totally smooth … things will happen.”

I’d be happy to take Coach Dungy at his word. He’s an honest man, but I can’t help but wonder if some of that desire to not deal with an openly-gay player in his locker room is informed by his understanding or lack of understanding about what it means to be gay. The Tribune writer, Ira Kaufmann, leaves it like this. Even in a news conference-type atmosphere, I certainly would have nailed him with a follow-up had I been writing that story to clarify what “thing” might happen to Sam.

What is particularly galling about Dungy's views is that he's one of the individuals that staunchly defended Michael Vick's return to the league.  He even mentored Vick as the convicted felon was brought back into the NFL.  To be honest, I didn't have a problem with Vick getting a second chance.  In fact, I think most everyone deserves a second chance.  What Vick did was awful, but he served his time in prison.  While Dungy advocated for him, he's going to turn his back on Sam because of perceived "things" that might happen?  That's just hard for me to take.

Dungy’s comments were disappointing. It is refreshing to hear that he believes Sam deserves a chance to play and excel in the NFL, but it’s a bit disheartening to hear the rest of his opinion on the subject.  It sends the wrong message about LGBT people and their acceptance into the workplace...even a workplace like the NFL locker room.

It sounds as if Sam landed with the right coach and the right team in St. Louis. Coach Jeff Fisher said in the article that any coach that isn’t going into the locker room these days is not going to be a coach in the league for long.

No comments: