Tony Dungy, Michael Sam and the Complicated Relationship Between Sports, Faith and Rights
Former coach and all around good guy Tony Dungy said he would not have drafted Michael Sam, the All-American linebacker taken by the St. Louis Rams who is openly gay.In and interview with the Tampa Tribune, Dungy explained he believes Sam's sexual orientation will be a distraction, "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."
Photo by Marcus Qwertyus Former coach Tony Dungy thinks Michael Sam will be a distraction.
As some have pointed out, Dungy has been a fervent advocate of players like Michael Vick and Tim Tebow, both players who have caused massive distractions -- Vick for his jail time after his involvement with a dog fighting ring and Tebow for his outspoken views on Christianity combined with his natural charisma as a Heisman Trophy winner. The former coach has also been behind the move to provide equal opportunity for African American coaches who have historically been under represented in the NFL.
Some might call this hypocrisy, but a more apt descriptor might be "complicated."
Dungy, who is black, has undoubtedly been forced to confront racism throughout his life. He has been open in his belief that the NFL should do better at including blacks in the hiring process, even writing the foreward for the book Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL. So, how does his concern over the distraction an openly gay player might bring to the locker room not make him a hypocrite? Namely, his faith.
Dungy is a Christian. It is not surprising that a man with his beliefs would find Sam's orientation difficult or even objectionable. And despite his strong stance on equal opportunity for those who may have been discriminated against, religion has a way of throwing a monkey wrench in to the machinery of logic. And, in some ways, being black may make it even more difficult.
It is not uncommon for African Americans who also have strong religious convictions to be offended by the notion that gay rights and equal rights are the same them because they don't believe homosexuals were born gay. They, on the other hand, had no choice when it came to their race. It's a razor thin line in the sand, but one that has driven a wedge between evangelical and non-religious Democrats/liberals who typically stand on the same side of most socio-political issues. Those who would walk lockstep in protest of any other form of social injustice find themselves at odds over this one.
I suspect Dungy finds himself in the same confounding space. And while he has been careful in the words he chose to describe his concerns, it is hard to believe someone so adamant in his defense of other players who have created massive distractions through their sometimes troubling actions would suddenly decide being gay was simply too much unless his faith was a factor...and his football.