How can anyone throw his support behind someone who tortures dogs, but not someone who's openly gay?

Tony DungyIn sports, especially in professional football, it is still acceptable to be homophobic without consequence. Tony Dungy, the first African American coach to win a Super Bowl, when questioned about the drafting of an openly gay player made it perfectly clear: Hate still exists in the NFL.

Michael Sam, SEC defensive player of the year, was drafted in the seventh-round by the Saint Louis Rams. Sam is also the first openly gay player in the NFL. It is hard to measure whether being gay hurt Sam’s draft options, but how many all-American players are drafted in the seventh-round? Even Sam admits that he should have been a third or fourth round pick.

Recently Dungy stated on national television that he “wouldn’t have taken Sam.” Why? “Because things will happen.” I guess you can use your imagination on what those things might be: Towel snapping in the showers? Running around in tight pants tackling men on the field while other men look on? Communal showers after practice? Oh yeah, all that stuff already happens in football.

What makes the remarks by Tony Dungy particularly galling is the fact that this is the same guy who threw his support behind Michael Vick. Apparently, being convicted of running and financing a brutal dog fighting ring is less of a distraction than being gay. It is hard to support or understand this kind of reasoning. Torturing dogs, while illegal, is okay. Being gay, while not illegal, not okay.

Michael Vick committed a senseless crime of pure evil. He ran a six-year illegal dog fighting operation that included electrocution, drowning and the beating to death of dogs. When his West Virginia property was raided, skeletal remains of several dogs were found on the premises as well as many badly injured dogs.

Tony Dungy, michael vickVick demonstrated vicious behavior. It was not a case where he financed this operation and had no knowledge of the day-to-day operations. Vick and his men killed one dog by “slamming it to the ground several times before it died, breaking the dog’s back or neck.” How Dungy can support Vick by excusing this behavior while denouncing an openly gay player as a “distraction” is laughable.

Sam, unlike the closeted gay players before, is simply choosing not to hide who he is and live openly. It is hard to understand how honesty can become a distraction. As one of Sam’s teammates aptly put it, “There’s a 90-man roster right now,” said St. Louis wide receiver T.J. Moe, who played with Sam at Missouri. “It doesn’t go 89, and then Michael Sam’s over there – this is the gay team, this is the straight team. Michael Sam is on this team and he’s treated just like anyone else.”

It is not just Tony Dungy, but Christian conservatives as a whole who seem so completely incompetent when it comes to understanding what is morally acceptable. I refuse to believe anyone’s God would find a loving relationship between consenting adults to be a sin beyond salvation. But repeatedly torturing another living thing is not only forgivable but forgettable.


  1. I’ve known Tony Dungy for a long time and I’m afraid the initial media reports per what he said and the context within which he said it might have led to some conclusions that aren’t reflective of his sentiments.

    Tony Dungy wasn’t talking about his own feelings about Michael Sam being gay. He wasn’t even talking about how a team he was coaching might feel about Michael Sam being gay. And he wasn’t referencing Michael Sam personally as “a distraction.”

    He was talking about the distractions the media circus would bring to his football team. And he learned about those distractions per the Michael Vick circus. Tony has always understood that the media has a job to do, but he, like most every coach I know, sees the media as a necessary evil. Because the media, almost by nature, creates distractions—sometimes it’s justifiable (Joe Paterno and Penn State, Michael Vick are examples) and sometimes it’s not (the circus over Michael Sam is, to me, not justifiable—the media should be writing about him as a player, not as a gay player).

    Having spent a right fair amount of time on college sidelines as a player and coach, I can tell you that few things change a team’s balance and readiness more than distractions. They are game-changers and deal-breakers. And the fact of the matter is that coaches get paid if they win, fired if they lose, and avoid media distractions at all costs because they’ll lead to losses a lot more than they’ll ever lead to wins.

    Tony Dungy would never condone in any way what Michael Vick did—I can tell you that with all confidence. But he believes in second chances. Tony Dungy would never condemn Michael Sams for being gay. He’s an intelligent guy and he knows the deal. And, beyond that, he’s a solid, compassionate guy. He’s one of the good guys, in fact.

  2. Um no, i think he made his point clear. He didn’t want to deal with the drama and unnecessary media attention that comes along with having the first openly gay player on your team. And rightly so, why would a coach who is trying to build a winning team want to deal with all that crap? I t has nothing to do with the fact that he is gay, it has everything to do with that everyone has to make a big damn deal out of it.

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