For those who may not know, Tony Dungy is a big name in professional football. He was the first black NFL coach to win the Super Bowl. His career win percentage with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts is 139-69, one of the best ever. He took his team to the playoffs eleven times and coached Peyton Manning to dominance. Since retiring, Dungy has kept busy as a football analyst for NBC, charity spokesperson, bestselling author and motivational speaker. Dungy is one of the most well-respected and beloved personalities in American sports.
He is also apparently a gay-hating bigot. At least, that’s the headline for today.
Here’s the story: for all of Dungy’s admirable qualities, he made the unfortunate mistake of answering a question he was asked. Ira Kaufman published this piece in the Tampa Tribune in which Dungy answers a point-blank question about Michael Sam. Dungy’s personal analysis is direct and simple:
“I wouldn’t have taken him,’’ said former Bucs and Colts coach Tony Dungy, now an analyst for NBC. “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.’’
For simplicity’s sake, let’s list out what coach Dungy said:
1) Sam deserves a chance to play in the NFL
2) Dungy’s personal preference would be not to select him, BECAUSE
2a) “Things will happen” that will not be “totally smooth” AND
2b) Dungy “wouldn’t want to deal with all of it.”
Faithful reader, here is your mission should you choose to accept it. Find the place where Tony Dungy says he doesn’t like gay people. Actually, just find the place where Tony Dungy says a gay player won’t work in the NFL. You know what, I’m feeling generous today: Merely locate the line in which coach Dungy says the Rams shouldn’t have drafted Michael Sam.
Didn’t find it, did you? That’s because none of those sentiments exist. And yet, CBS’s Mike Freeman feels totally within his rights to tweet thus:
Jane Coaston calls Dungy a liar and says the only “distraction” is him:
Don’t like having a gay player in the NFL? Say it.
Dungy said not one homophobic thing in that interview. Not one. He gave a perspective based on years of coaching the NFL, an opinion totally personalized (“I wouldn’t want to deal with it”) and couched in tolerant language (“Not because I don’t believe Sam deserves a chance to play”). Oh and by the way, what Dungy said is anchored 100% in reality: The Rams have already had to squash a documentary for the Oprah network that Sam had signed on to before the draft and had not divulged to the league until after he had a team. What Dungy said is not just valid, it’s absolutely correct: It HASN’T been a totally smooth operation. His opinion–that he wouldn’t want to deal with it all–is not an iota more homophobic than the 31 other general managers who passed on Sam for 7 rounds of selections.
There’s something vicious bubbling under the surface of Coaston’s outrage, though. She goes on to blast those
Media members who ask these kinds of questions knowing exactly how coaches like Dungy will respond
“Coaches like Dungy”? Does Coaston mean black coaches? Veteran coaches? Super Bowl coaches? No, of course not. Coaston means Christian coaches. There you have it. We all have permission to attribute hate to Dungy based on What We All Know He Meant (and not what he actually said) because we know how Coaches Like Dungy feel about Michael Sam.
Folks, this is scary. What we are seeing now is the public crucifixion of a man who has spent a lifetime embodying class, respect, tolerance and fairness. A public crucifixion being justified by crimes invented by the imagination of the mob, in order to satiate a bloodthirsty political machine. This isn’t even about Michael Sam, anymore. It’s about the eviction of anything resembling nonconformity from the public square.
You know why Coaston said what she did? Spite. She wants Dungy to be homophobic. She wants people like him to be homophobic. She wants Dungy to be a bigoted hatemonger, because when that happens, he loses his personhood and becomes nothing more than a stubborn stain on the sheets of progressive culture.
That’s the essence of intolerance: Lying about who someone is or what they do in order to incite fear and loathing of them. Tony Dungy is not the bigot here.