Not everybody is convinced by those beeping sounds coming from Tony Dungy as the NBC NFL analyst backs away from his unsupportive quote about Michael Sam.
Sam is the late-round NFL draft pick who had the courage to announce he was gay before the draft.
“I wouldn’t have taken him,’’ Dungy, a former Gopher and former Bucs and Colts coach, told Tampa Bay Times sports reporter Ira Kaufman. “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’d have had more respect for Dungy if he had said Sam is no Jackie Robinson and is just not good enough to play in the NFL. But things happen? Things — better known by the overused, ever-popular term “distractions” — are part of life.
I wanted to ask Dungy why coaches take those jobs if they don’t want to manage the distraction of other people’s problems, but @NBCSportPR didn’t acknowledge my Tuesday tweet.
The first black coach to win a Super Bowl is a man who previously enjoyed a good distraction. He stepped forward to mentor dog killer Michael Vick and didn’t step away from Marvin Harrison when he was investigated in a murder case while with the Colts.
But Dungy wouldn’t have drafted this nice college kid who, despite loving men, has triumphed over a heartbreaking family background.
After sports people ripped into him, Dungy issued a statement. I think we were supposed to read that statement and conclude that the distraction Dungy was referring to was the circus of that OWN reality show about Sam. Good save, Coach. That show was an idea so dumb, I couldn’t believe Oprah’s people and Sam’s handlers considered shooting a frame before someone called a marginal prospect even makes the Rams.
“I was not asked whether or not Michael Sam deserves an opportunity to play in the NFL. He absolutely does,” beeped Dungy as he stepped backward. “I was not asked whether his sexual orientation should play a part in the evaluation process. It should not. I was not asked whether I would have a problem having Michael Sam on my team. I would not.”
I’m not buying the clarification, and neither did “Pardon the Interruption” co-host Tony Kornheiser Tuesday on ESPN.
“What he’s saying is As a coach I don’t want these distractions. But what I’m hearing is It may not be worth it to have a gay football player,” said Kornheiser. “Tony Dungy did, indeed, crusade for and stood up for Michael Vick. That’s not a distraction?” said Kornheiser, adding that Dungy “ought to remember” that somebody once stood up for him.
Kornheiser co-host Mike Wilbon — who said he used his former newspaper column to crusade for Dungy to get an NFL head coach spot he was being denied “entirely because he was a black coach” — had this note: “There is a component, a subculture of the religious right that is very influential in football, maybe not the other sports, but football.” For that reason, Wilbon doesn’t think known gay players will be smoothly integrated into the NFL.
I’m not inside Dungy’s head, but I know he’s religious and homophobia in the black church/community is not new. As a discriminated-against people, blacks need to have more empathy. And Dungy should follow up his statement by providing Sam the same quality of mentoring enjoyed by Vick and assorted miscreants.
What’s Love thinking?
Kornheiser had an all-time moment when he pretended to know what Timberwolf Kevin Love is thinking about how long it’s taking to trade him to the Cavs: “ I thought LeBron James was running the Cavaliers. COME GET ME! What are you waiting for? WINTER IS COMING, seriously! I want to get out of Minnesota before it freezes. I want to [be in] the playoffs before [qualifying for my] AARP card. I’m going to star in this league; Andrew Wiggins is a player in the Big 12. I’m the BEST THING that LeBron James could have. COME GET ME, ALREADY! I’m standing ON A CORNER OUT HERE. DON’T SEND ME TO CHICAGO.”
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.”