The usual slander-free Tony Dungy caught hellfire earlier this week when he openly admitted that drafting openly gay Michael Sam wouldn’t have been on his agenda had been a coach in the league.
As it turns out, Dungy claims he wasn’t attacking Sam’s sexual orientation at the time of the interview. He was more so identifying with the media circus surrounding the former SEC Defensive Player of the Year, which included a proposed reality TV show on Oprah Winfrey’s network.
Statement via Pro Football Talk
On Monday afternoon while on vacation with my family, I was quite surprised to read excerpts from an interview I gave several weeks ago related to this year’s NFL Draft, and I feel compelled to clarify those remarks.
I was asked whether I would have drafted Michael Sam and I answered that I would not have drafted him. I gave my honest answer, which is that I felt drafting him would bring much distraction to the team. At the time of my interview, the Oprah Winfrey reality show that was going to chronicle Michael’s first season had been announced.
I was not asked whether or not Michael Sam deserves an opportunity to play in the NFL. He absolutely does.
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 have been asked all of those questions several times in the last three months and have always answered them the same way—by saying that playing in the NFL is, and should be, about merit.
The best players make the team, and everyone should get the opportunity to prove whether they’re good enough to play. That’s my opinion as a coach. But those were not the questions I was asked.
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.
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.
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 that we will be able to focus on his play and not on his sexual orientation.
Contrary to previous reports, Sam did indeed respond with a sort of tongue-in-cheek response, telling Nick Wagoner, “Thank God he wasn’t the St. Louis Rams coach. I have a lot of respect for Coach Dungy. And like everyone in America, everyone is entitled to their own opinions.”
We shall see how this unfolds when the 2014 NFL season kicks off.