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 #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 and got to know well, like Muhammad Ali, as well as his relationships with fellow sports journalists like Bob Costas and Howard Cosell.
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Episode #16 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Andrew Maraniss: Outstanding Author of Books That Focus On the Intersection of Sports, History and Social Justice.
Episode #15 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Psychology with Dr. Tim Rice. We discuss the growth of sports psychology at all levels, the positive impact that a number of high profile athletes have had by opening up, and the importance of everyone involved in sports caring for the whole athlete, mind and body.
Episode #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – Gary McCoy is a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations.
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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