By Ken Reed
Tony Dungy’s comment that he wouldn’t have drafted gay football player Michael Sam because he “wouldn’t want to deal with all of it” is appalling and disappointing on so many levels.
Dungy has been a class act throughout his career. He proved that an African-American could coach a Super Bowl champion. Perhaps more importantly, he proved that a humanistic coach who treats his players respectfully, who doesn’t yell and swear constantly, and who doesn’t mentally or physically abuse his players (think the anti-Vince Lombardi and anti-Bobby Knight) can be a highly successful coach in the NFL.
Yet, for all his positives, Dungy’s stance on Sam just can’t be easily brushed aside. First of all, he works in a league that remains in the Stone Age when it comes to socio-cultural issues (See Redskins nickname, Dolphins locker room culture, Vikings treatment of punter Chris Kluwe, etc.) Second, everything Dungy has achieved in his life would’ve been impossible if a few enlightened, progressive-thinking people hadn’t believed that African-Americans deserve a fair shot in the coaching profession.
Dungy, worked hard to get quarterback Michael Vick a second chance in the NFL after Vick was released from prison following a dogfighting conviction. That’s fine. I think Vick deserved a second chance. But Dungy wanted no part of giving Michael Sam a first chance at the NFL.
“I wouldn’t have taken him,” said Dungy in an interview with The Tampa Tribune. “It’s not going to be totally smooth. … Things will happen.”
No, Tony, things won’t be totally smooth for the St. Louis Rams who did draft Sam. Things weren’t totally smooth for the Brooklyn Dodgers when they decided to bring Jackie Robinson up to the majors either. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy. Things don’t always go smoothly for those who make courageous decisions in life.
I’m a fan of Tony Dungy’s humanistic coaching style. It deserves to be widely emulated, from the pros down to the youth leagues. But it’s now obvious that Tony Dungy lacks the courage and leadership abilities of the people who gave him a chance to coach in the NFL, and to ultimately be the first African-American head coach to win the Super Bowl. In fact, it’s telling to contrast Dungy’s lack of courage and leadership with the immense courage and leadership displayed by Michael Sam — first by his brave announcement and second by his recent powerful ESPYs speech.
Tony Dungy isn’t a terrible human being. I believe his positives, and the positive things he’s done for people, still outweigh his negatives.
But one thing is crystal clear today: Tony Dungy is no Branch Rickey.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan in the year 2022.
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Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
Episode #19 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Capturing the Spirit of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Anika Orrock – We discuss the hoops AAGPFL women had to jump through to play the game they loved as well as the long-term impact and legacy they have in advancing sports opportunities for girls and women.
Episode #18 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking about the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and the Lia Thomas Controversy with Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Hogshead-Makar is a triple gold medalist in swimming, a civil rights attorney and CEO of Champion Women.
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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