Tony Dungy, the former NFL coach and current broadcaster, got a lot of support on sports-talk radio Tuesday morning after being heavily criticized for his comments about Michael Sam and why he would not have drafted the openly gay football player.
Dungy’s position was that he would not want to deal with the distractions Sam’s presence would create in the locker room, and several radio personalities supported that, including ESPN’s Mike Golic on the "Mike & Mike" show and Colin Cowherd on "The Herd." Both of those guys are intelligent radio personalities, particularly Cowherd, who almost always defends his positions with reasoned arguments.
Both are off-base on this one.
By all accounts, Dungy is a good man with sound character. He’s caring and intelligent. But his stance on this topic is filled with problems, and the support he is getting on the “distractions” angle is missing the point.
Some of the criticism leveled at Dungy has gone overboard and attacked him personally. That’s also misguided. Do his comments make him a hatemonger? Certainly not. But the comments are nonetheless insidious.
Remarks of racists and bigots carry no weight; they can be dismissed as products of undeveloped minds. Not the case here.
But comments like Dungy’s, from a reasonable person, do much to foster stereotypes and keep society from evolving.
The argument that Dungy used is the same argument occasionally voiced two generations ago when some professional teams were late in allowing African Americans on their rosters. Was there any defense at that time in keeping people of color off the field because of the problems it would cause among other players? No. And the same applies here. When a reasonable person essentially says it’s OK to discriminate, which is what Dungy’s words imply and his supporters reinforce, progress is stopped in its tracks.
This kind of implied discrimination of gays exists throughout our society, as Cowherd pointed out. That doesn't mean that Dungy should get a free pass.
I hope Tony Dungy didn’t really take the time to think through what he was saying about Sam; I don’t think he meant to be discriminatory. But the problem is his message conveys exactly that. I suspect at some point he’ll address this issue again and hope he takes the time to see the flaw in his thinking.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times