Former NFL coach Tony Dungy has come under scrutiny for comments he make regarding openly gay NFL play Michael Sam in an interview with the Tampa Tribune published Sunday. In the interview, Dungy said that he wouldn’t have drafted Sam because of distraction he would bring to the team. Dungy’s honest opinion created some backlash which the current NBC sports analyst has taken time to address on Tuesday.
Dungy clarified that his comments made in the interview was more about his concern over the media coverage drafting Sam would present and not his sexuality. In the interview, Dungy initially said, “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.”
Instant backlash followed as many believe Dungy was mainly referencing Sam’s sexuality and should of instead focused on what Sam could add to the team. One person, who bashed Dungy’s, was fellow NBC employee Sam Champion. The Weather Channel news anchor told TMZ sports, “As a coach, you should have one policy for your players and who they are dating – and that is to leave it off the field. The only consideration you should have is what their abilities are on the field. What a shame if you didn’t take a player you knew could play and play him.”
What some believe as a bigoted comment, others see as Dungy’s right to express his opinion and it was an opinion he clarified in a statement made Tuesday. He said he was not asked whether Sam’s sexual orientation should play a part in the evaluation process, he was not asked if he would have a problem with having Sam on his team. He mainly based his opinion on the distraction he believes would be caused by the media and not Sam as a gay player.
In the statement he said, “I do not believe Michael’s sexual orientation will be a distraction to his teammates or his organization. I do, however, believe that the media attention that comes with it will be a distraction. Unfortunately we are all seeing this play out now, and I feel badly that my remarks played a role in the distraction.”
He went on to express his admiration of Michael Sam as a football player and a man striving to make a difference. He added, “I wish Michael Sam nothing but the best in his quest to become a star in the NFL and I am confident he will get the opportunity to show what he can do on the field. My sincere hope is we will be able to focus on his play and not on his sexual orientation.”