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 #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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