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


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