People Making a Huge Deal out of Tony Dungy’s Comments on Michael Sam Need to Stop Acting Ridiculous

tony-dungy-michael-samBefore I get started, let me predict that at least half (if not more) of the people who come across this article and are “outraged” by Tony Dungy’s comments won’t read anything more than the headline.

I’ve noticed a trend lately among many individuals that I find extremely troubling.  I call these people “rage seekers.”  These are people who seem eager to find the next thing about which to be “outraged.”

And this isn’t a “liberal thing” or a “conservative thing.”  There’s hypocrisy on all fronts of the political debate where we claim to love freedom of speech, until someone says something with which we disagree.  Then suddenly our love for free speech seems far more diminished.

But when it comes to Tony Dungy’s comments on Michael Sam, obviously it’s going to be liberals who are far more “offended.”

And to those people I say – are you serious?  Are we at a point in human communication where context means nothing anymore?

Because there was really nothing about Dungy’s comments that should have “outraged” anyone.  Could he have possibly used better words?  Sure.  But the context of what he said was valid, even if everyone doesn’t fully agree with it.

Dungy was asked about his drafting philosophy of avoiding distractions and if Michael Sam might be someone he would have drafted.  To which he replied, “I wouldn’t have taken him. 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.”

I don’t see anything that’s offensive.  What he said, with the context of what he was asked, is exactly right.

Michael Sam is the first openly gay NFL player, which is amazing.  Though I don’t believe for a moment that he’s the only gay player in the NFL.  He’s just the first (and so far only) player to come out openly about his homosexuality.

But unfortunately being the first (and so far only) gay NFL player does bring about a lot of unusual media attention.  And even though some of it is unfair, for the foreseeable future, Sam is going to generate a lot of attention and probably a sizable amount of fan scrutiny for being the first openly gay NFL player.

I wish Sam nothing but the best.  I truly do hope he makes an NFL team and has a long, distinguished career.  As the NFL’s first openly gay player he’s ushered in a new era for LGBT rights in professional sports.  Especially male professional sports.

But Tony Dungy was speaking as a coach, not an ordinary person.  As a person, Dungy is widely known as a remarkable human being.  And I don’t believe for a second he holds some kind of negative animosity toward Michael Sam because of his sexual orientation.  But that’s just my opinion – obviously I don’t know what he really thinks, just what he says.

But as a coach, where managing the cohesiveness of a locker room can be difficult enough, he might not have wanted to willfully bring in someone who he knew was going to bring about other factors that might make his job more difficult.

Is that an attack on Sam?  I don’t think that it is at all.  I think it’s just an honest comment about a reality that, while unfair, is still a reality.

I don’t see many people “outraged” because Tim Tebow isn’t in the NFL.  And he’s a perfect example of someone who brings about a lot of media attention, and fan scrutiny, that often causes a distraction for whatever NFL team he might be on.

Is Tebow a legit NFL quarterback?  Not really.  His career completion percentage is 48%.  That’s – awful.  But do I think Tebow could be a useful player on an NFL team?  I think so.  NFL teams often have players who are specialized for a handful of plays a game.  That’s where I think someone like Tebow could excel.

But the distractions that come along with him simply aren’t worth dealing with for apparently everyone in the NFL.  Not for someone who’s, at best, a gimmick player for a coach who might use him to try to trick an opponent’s defense for just a few plays a game.

That’s essentially the point Dungy was trying to make about Sam.

Because let’s not forget, it’s not as if Sam is a sure-bet NFL player.  He’s someone who will be lucky to make an NFL squad and even if he does, it’s very possible that he’s a special teams player at best.  And that matters.

If he were projected as a possible “franchise quarterback,” then many coaches would have absolutely drafted Sam.  Because the benefits outweigh any kind of unwanted media attention he might bring with him.

But he’s not.  And for a lot of coaches, inviting the media frenzy that’s undoubtedly going to surround Sam isn’t worth dealing with for someone who most scouts don’t project as an impactful NFL player or even someone who can play in the league at all.

Is that fair?  Of course not.  But unfortunately that’s the reality facing Michael Sam as the NFL’s first openly gay athlete.

And some are even blasting Dungy for mentoring Michael Vick after his dog fighting scandal while seemingly saying he wouldn’t “want to deal with” Michael Sam.

That comparison is just absurd.

Vick’s actions were appalling.  As an avid animal lover, and dog owner, I can personally never forgive him for what he did.  But Vick’s skills in the NFL were already proven so teams knew what they were getting.  They could do a cost analysis to gauge whether or not what he brought to the table was worth it compared to any kind of distractions he might bring with him.

Dungy offered to mentor Vick after he got out of prison. That’s a big difference from Dungy the coach wanting to bring Vick on his team.

And being a criminal in the NFL isn’t exactly “uncharted territory.”   Part of Dungy’s comments stemmed from the fact that Sam being the NFL’s first openly gay player is uncharted territory.  It’s a variable that no one has had to deal with yet.  Unfortunately, dealing with a criminal in an NFL locker room isn’t uncommon.

Dungy helping Vick, while saying he wouldn’t have wanted to draft Sam, isn’t about him endorsing a criminal over a homosexual, it’s about the reality that none of us know for certain how Sam’s transition into the NFL is going to go.

I assume most people hope it goes well.  But it’s clear that there are still many within the NFL who view homosexuality negatively and we have no idea how that will impact a locker room.

Does that mean their intolerance should be tolerated?  Absolutely not.  But dealing with that is part of the “unknown” factor Dungy was alluding to in his comments.  Especially for a player in Sam who isn’t someone highly touted by NFL scouts and stands the probable likelihood of not even making the team.

It goes back to the Tebow comparison.  Is what comes along with a player worth handling based on the production they might bring to a team?

For Tebow, the answer is no.  For Sam, a late-seventh round pick, for 31 different teams (and St. Louis for the other six rounds) it was no as well.

And whether people want to admit it or not, Sam being the NFL’s first openly gay athlete is going to bring about uncommon (and probably unwanted) media attention.  And a lot of coaches don’t want to deal with that in their locker room.

Heck, just go ask Johnny Manziel and all the teams who passed on him even though he was projected as a top 5 draft pick.  Some teams saw his personality, along with all the media attention that comes with him, and decided they didn’t want to deal with it.

I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan.  Jerry Jones flat-out said the biggest reason they passed on Manziel was that they knew as a back up it would never work.  The media, and fans, would constantly be pushing for him to start (whether or not coaches thought he was ready) and that would have caused a lot of distractions for the team.  Distractions they didn’t want to deal with.

Might the Cowboys regret passing on Manziel?  Possibly.  The same way 31 other teams might regret passing on Sam if he turns out to be a solid NFL player.

But in the media it plays well to try to drag Dungy through the mud as someone who’d not want to coach a gay football player, but would help an admitted animal abuser.  Even though Dungy’s role in Vick’s life, and his comments about coaching Sam, aren’t at all related or even comparable.

Again, fair or unfair, it goes back to production.  What an NFL team will possibly tolerate from a starting quarterback isn’t the same thing they’ll tolerate for a fourth string wide receiver or a linebacker prospect who stands little chance at making the team.

But people trying to tear apart Dungy over these comments are being pretty ridiculous.  His words might have been poorly chosen, but the context of what he was trying to say wasn’t offensive and was fairly valid.

It’s “rage seekers” who are just out to try to find anything about which to be “outraged.” People who don’t want to take a step back and have a real conversation about something that might be fairly controversial.  They just want to see what someone says, then react emotionally about what was said instead of rationally looking at the context.

And that’s exactly what happened here.

I’d suggest we all just take a step back and let Michael Sam show everybody what he’s got.  If he makes the team, great!  If not, it’s not the end of the world as some would apparently have people believe.


Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.

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  • Rep Jim Hankle

    I love how you gloss over the fact that Dungy is a devout Christian. He was standing up for HIS LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST by saying he wouldn’t pick him…nothing less…nothing more.

    • June Goetz Lynne

      football is about who can play the game … be a team player, and help the team win games … faith or lack of it has nothing to do with playing abilities

  • John Bogeman

    your heterosexual privilege is showing.

    • Paper Boy

      If heterosexual privilege is not showing, what does that mean?

  • JTC111

    Dungy’s position seems to be that Sam would be a distraction not worth accepting while Vick was a distraction worth accepting. That right there is enough to question Dungy’s value system. And this article is enough to make me question the values of Allen Clifton.

  • David Gray

    Just another example of how religion, and many of it’s practitioners, poison EVERYTHING in this life, not to mention that Ira Kaufman disputes ‘when’ Dungy claims to have made the comments, which makes either Dungy, or Kaufman, a liar. Why would Kaufman ‘sit’ on comments like these for 2 months? It doesn’t make sense, and Dungy is likely ‘misremembering’ the ‘when’ of it all to cover his pious ass, a common trait amongst the ‘religious’ I know, though where I come from, ‘misremembering’ is called lying. I suspect without ‘rage seekers,’ as Clifton calls us, we’d still practice all kinds of bigotry and hate, we know what Dungy said… and we know how he meant it.

  • Michael Siever

    Tony Dungy is uber religious. When Indiana was proposing a same-sex marriage ban, he said he was in favor of the ban, saying “I’m on the Lord’s side on this one”. At the end of the day, this is story is a big fat nothing because Dungy is no longer coaching in the NFL, so it’s just an opinion that has no real affect on the outcome of anything, so for people to be outraged over is really uncalled for…

  • Robert Scalzi

    I’m sorry but you are WRONG – TD is an unapologetic anti gay bigot as evidenced by his stance and outspokenness against Gay Marriage. He is also an unabashed supporter for a murderer of mans best friend – Fuck Dung-y he is nothing but a god damned anti animal rights, anti gay bigot.