Former Tampa Bay and Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy drew criticism for saying that he would not have drafted former Missouri Tigers defensive star, Michael Sam, because he would not want to put up with the media distraction Sam would bring. The issue blew up Monday after comments Dungy made a couple of a weeks ago hit public awareness.
Tony Dungy, who also coached defensive backs on Marty Schottenheimer’s Kansas City Chiefs staff, said:
“I wouldn’t have taken him,” Dungy told the Tampa Bay Tribune. “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.”
Of course, the PC police immediately criticized Dungy for his stance, now that gay marriage, and gay participation in society, have won social approval in the mainstream media. Will Brinson from CBSSports.com called Dungy’s position “disappointing”:
But this is a disappointing stance from the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl who dealt with racially-based backlash for he and his family at times. Dungy literally wrote (the foreward of) the book pushing for “Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL.”
He was one of Michael Vick’s biggest supporters when the former Falcons quarterback returned to the NFL from a stint in prison following his arrest for dog-fighting. Vick commands headlines now; in 2009 he wasn’t a distraction so much as fireworks coated in plutonium.
Dungy posted a video on his site “All-Pro Dad” encouraging Tim Tebow to be “patient” because the right situation would find him. Tim Tebow is a very nice and well-meaning person, but he is a walking, professional distraction.
Cindy Boren of the Washington Post wrote that Tony Dungy’s position wasn’t really a surprise:
In 2007, he accepted the “Friend of Family” award from the Indiana Family Institute and was asked about the group’s support for an amendment to the state constitution that would define marriage as being between one man and one woman.
Dungy remained true to those beliefs when he criticized President Obama’s stance on gay marriage, tweeting: “I was disappointed he veered from biblical view.”
Boren also implied that Dungy is a hypocrite:
He has also worked with other troubled players, as he told Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times in 2009. Whether a player is struggling with his environment or personal demons, Dungy told Farmer that, after mentoring, “eventually the light goes on and they change. That’s part of coaching, that’s part of being a parent, that’s part of helping young people grow into adulthood.”
While Dungy’s comments about Sam seem to indicate that coaching doesn’t extend to the former Missouri player, they’re actually consistent with his stance over the years.
What’s funny is Boren is in such a hurry to heap criticism on Tony Dungy, that she doesn’t think through the implications of her attack. She suggests that Dungy is a hypocrite for not wanting to “coach” Michael Sam through his “troubles”. Given Dungy’s Christian values, that would mean Boren expects Dungy to convince Sam to suppress his homosexuality to behave in conformity with biblical morality. Somehow, I think that Ms. Boren would launch more attacks on Dungy, not less, were he to attempt it.
That’s pretty bad reasoning for someone who writes for our nation’s “paper of record”.
In response to the heat, Tony Dungy issued a “clarification” in which he stated:
“I was not asked whether or not Michael Sam deserves an opportunity to play in the NFL. He absolutely does.”
“I was not asked whether his sexual orientation should play a part in the evaluation process. It should not,” Dungy wrote. “I was not asked whether I would have a problem having Michael Sam on my team. I would not.”
Of course, this second statement didn’t help Dungy at all, in the view of uber-liberal Keith Olbermann, who seemed delighted at the opportunity to flog Dungy for failing to offer anything but unqualified support for Michael Sam in his Worst Person in the Sports World segment on ESPN:
“I have a problem believing Tony Dungy’s sincerity in this one,” says Olbermann. “To Mr. Dungy, whatever the distractions Michael Vick presented were nothing compared to the distractions Michael Sam might present.
“I wouldn’t want to deal with it, things will happen,’ is remarkably similar to what football coaches and owners said until 1946 about players who looked like Tony Dungy. And it’s remarkably similar to what NFL owners said until 1989 about guys who wanted to become NFL head coaches who look like Tony Dungy.”
Mr. Olbermann is likely right that Dungy’s assertion about “distraction” is more rooted in his discomfort with homosexuality than his distaste for dealing with controversy. But, really, does everyone have to be a social pioneer in every aspect of their life?
Anyone who has lived long enough will find they have to rethink some of their viewpoints. Sometimes that process can be uncomfortable and difficult. However, you’re not going to persuade such an individual by hurling insults. Instead, you just push them away.
Tony Dungy believes that Michael Sam should have the chance to play in the league. Tony Dungy believes that merit should determine whether Micheal Sam sticks on a roster. What Tony Dungy doesn’t want to be is the guy that helps bring the first openly gay player into the NFL.
But, you know what, Tony Dungy probably isn’t the right guy to make that happen.
And that’s OK.
I think Dungy’s breakthrough as the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl, his efforts to mentor troubled players, and his strong values should be enough for one lifetime.
He’s not a raging bigot. He’s just a person trying to adjust to changing social values with respect to homosexuality and the religious beliefs that have shaped his life. Those same views have helped Dungy become a father figure to many players in trouble.
That doesn’t make him Donald Sterling, or Keith Olbermann.
There’s a reason that Olbermann returned to ESPN with his tail between his legs after failing as a political pundit. It’s because Olbermann’s arrogant, psuedo-intellectual snark is one of the major causes of the partisan gridlock in Washington.
People like Olbermann enrich themselves by polarizing the public while offering no solutions. It’s the kind of “journalism” that would have made Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite ashamed to be part of the same profession.
I am sure that the Cornell-educated Olbermann is well aware that even his most-cherished civil rights heroes had their flaws. Lyndon B. Johnson probably stuffed the ballot box to win election to the Senate. John F. Kennedy had a messy personal life. J. Edgar Hoover reportedly played FBI tapes of Rev. Martin Luther King cheating on his wife.
Obermann, however, can’t tolerate shortcomings from Tony Dungy.
And, let’s ignore the fact Dungy is probably telling a truth that the PC police don’t want to hear. Though the University of Missouri was largely portrayed as a utopia of tolerance after Michael Sam came out to teammates, the reality was something different. Mizzou TE Eric Waters tweeted:
Half of y’all posting these pics saying how proud you are. But most of y’all was the ones talkin shit behind his back in the locker room
— Eric Waters (@E_Waters81) February 10, 2014
Does anyone really think the NFL will be any less two-faced? So, why are we bashing Tony Dungy for telling an uncomfortable truth? Isn’t that what a journalist is supposed to do?
Just who is the hypocrite, Keith?
The bottom line is this: Tony Dungy has helped many people, both inside and outside the NFL. Meanwhile, Keith Olbermann’s attack on Dungy shows he’s more interested in using his media platform to be a self-aggrandizing bully than aiding social change.
If Keith Olbermann had an ounce of journalistic integrity, he would feature himself on his “Worst Person in the Sports World” segment.