To Be Fair, 31 NFL Teams Probably Agree With Tony Dungy's Take On Michael Sam

  • Eric Goldschein

tony dungy

Tony Dungy pissed everyone off by saying he wouldn’t have drafted openly gay football player Michael Sam, because of bullshit. Technically, he said he wouldn’t have taken Sam “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.”

It’s a ridiculous statement, especially coming from Dungy, whose strict religious convictions should probably inspire him to accept everybody, as Jesus did, but instead leads him to judge others who are different. Also, he was a pretty staunch supporter of dog-killer Michael Vick, and espoused giving the ex-con another chance even though that has come with plenty of distractions for both the Eagles and Jets. Basically, he’s being a hypocrite.

Defending hypocrisy is difficult, so rather than do that, I’ll applaud Dungy for something else: Speaking his mind, when so many football organizations and media members probably feel the same way, and instead do their talking with actions — or, in this case, inactions.

Of course, Dungy’s mind sucks, and I don’t agree with the stupid conclusions said mind came to. But considering that Michael Sam was passed up by 31 NFL teams before he was selected at the end of the seventh round by the Rams, Dungy is clearly not the only one who had reservations about him.

Was Sam’s fall from a third-round projection after his award-winning senior season only about football? A bit undersized as a defensive end, Sam made a switch to outside linebacker for the NFL. According to this pre-draft model from, 11 teams needed a linebacker, outside linebacker or edge rusher when the year ended. Where were you, Arizona Cardinals? And you, New Orleans Saints and New York Jets? Only the Rams, with their final pick, chose to take a flier on Sam at the end of the draft.

In the draft war rooms, Sam’s name would naturally have come up for a handful of teams. You think they also didn’t use words like “distraction” and “locker room issues”? Believe it or not, Dungy is not the last holdover from a bygone era of bigotry in sports. Plenty of NFL players, coaches and managers don’t want to deal with “that sweet stuff.”

Dungy pseudo-apologized for his comments today. Here’s part of that apology — or, “elaboration” (via ProFootballTalk):

“What I was asked about was my philosophy of drafting, a philosophy that was developed over the years, which was to minimize distractions for my teams,” the former Buccaneers and Colts head coach says. “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.”

Perhaps Dungy still thinks of himself as a football coach who does some analyzing on the side, and not as a member of the media, which he most assuredly is. By saying “the media attention… will be a distraction,” after being, himself, the root cause of this most current distraction, Dungy created a self-fulfilling prophecy. He is the media. He created a distraction. Therefore, the media created a distraction. He was right, guys. The media got us talking about this non-football issue in regards to a football player. Good call, dude.

Whatever Dungy’s supposed reasoning is for not hypothetically selecting Sam is irrelevant. Everyone knows the real reason — barely concealed homophobia — but we won’t be capable of eradicating this point of view by shaming Dungy with hate-screeds and links to other things he’s said that don’t pass the “non-bullshit” test. We need to give him, as we did Chris Broussard, the right to be an idiot, and then go about our day. Don’t let him become the distraction he secretly wanted to be all along, spreading the word of his god and acting as jury and judge for modern society.

Besides, at least Dungy is somewhat-willing to admit his reservations. NFL teams are instead hiding behind phrases like “football decisions” and “personnel fits.” Or by not saying anything at all.

Photo via Getty