I wasn’t going to say anything about Tony Dungy’s commentson Michael Sam, because people smarter than I said what I was thinking much better (or at least snarkier) than I could have myself.
But then Tony Dungy clarified his comments by saying, well by saying his original comments all over again. “My philosophy of drafting, a philosophy that was developed over the years…was to minimize distractions for my teams.”
Let's be clear: the only “distractions” Michael Sam is causing is when people like Tony Dungy make a big deal of how distracting Michael Sam is.
Plus, and this has been asked multiple times by many people but it’s worth repeating, was Dungy’s philosophy really about “minimizing distractions”? Let’s go to the highlights!
Keyshawn Johnson, who at the time was merely a talented headcase who had just “written” (with ESPN’s Shelley Smith) the book, “Just Give Me The Damn Ball,” was traded for by Tampa Bay, with Dungy as its head coach. A few years later (after Dungy was fired), Key would be deactivated for the season by the Bucs because he was considered…wait for it…a distraction.
Michael Vick, who at the time had just gotten out of prison for his role in the dog fighting ring, was signed by the Eagles thanks in large part to Dungy, who was instrumental in helping Vick and all of his baggage find an NFL home. Vick was such a lightning rod that the debate of whether or not he should be allowed to play in the NFL continues today.
Johnny Manziel, who in 2012 was arrested, who in 2013 left the Manning Passing Academy early (allegedly for oversleeping), who later that year was investigated by the NCAA for accepting money for autographs, whose off-the-field exploits has led to media asking coaches and teammates about them over and over again – you know, Johnny Football – was lauded by Dungy not once, but twice, about how good a football player and what a great teammate he was going to be. Just for fun, you should google “Johnny Manziel” and “off the field” and scan through the first few pages of the over two million results.
But sure, having Keyshawn, Vick and Manziel on your team would totally work with a philosophy of “minimizing distractions.”
If Tony Dungy had just left his comments as “if you can play, you can play,” (which coincidentally is an organization Dungy doesn't seem to agree with), he would have been (mostly) in the clear. We could have looked past his previous anti-gay stance because he’s just so gosh-darn likeable on TV. But he had to throw that little bit of himself in there, that part of him that still looks at Michael Sam the gay man first and Michael Sam the football player second.
Dungy is certainly free to voice his opinion, and unfortunately he is not alone in that opinion. But there is hope that change is on the way. Not too many years ago, people still thought that having a black quarterback would negatively affect the locker room (read: be a distraction). In February, Russell Wilson led the Seahawks to the Super Bowl with very little reporting on his race. I hope coverage of gay football players goes the same way.