Dungy wrong about Michael Sam

Tony Dungy

This column isn't written to disparage or denigrate Tony Dungy, a leader and role model I respect and admire.

But Dungy's perspective on gay NFL player Michael Sam is unhealthy for African-Americans and logically inconsistent with principles at the foundation of American culture.

"I wouldn't want to deal with all of it," Dungy told Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune, explaining why he would not have drafted Sam. "It's not going to be totally smooth ... things will happen."

America is not a totally smooth place, idea or experiment. We're a melting pot of races, ethnicities, cultures, religions and everything else. We rose to global power and maintained it because we chose to deal with all sorts of diversity challenges other countries have shied away from. Things have happened here -- things far more problematic than media "distractions" -- that we have overcome through leadership and a willingness to push beyond our comfort zone.

Great leaders and thinkers embrace a consistency in logic. Dungy's inconsistency in logic as it relates to Michael Sam and Michael Vick is baffling.

Dungy championed Vick's re-entry into the NFL from prison. According to published reports at the time, Dungy even supported Vick's decision to do a reality TV show on BET: "The Michael Vick Project."

Dungy took a public, courageous and important stand backing Vick, a convicted felon. It was a calculated decision.

"I've visited a lot of prisons," Dungy told "60 Minutes" correspondent James Brown in 2009 during a segment on Vick. "That's something I do. And I know there are a lot of young men, especially African-American young men, who need a chance, who made a mistake, who did something wrong, who had a problem, but are looking to bounce back. That's what I've always been concerned about, not just for Michael Vick, but for hundreds of guys that I've talked to."

What Dungy understands is that within American culture there is a deep-seated, opportunity-depriving hostility toward ex-cons. Our society deems them as unworthy of equality. Many people do not "want to deal with all" that goes into providing opportunities for men and women who have made mistakes because there is a pervasive fear that things won't go "totally smooth ... things will happen."

Dungy stepped up as a leader, mentored Vick and advocated for NFL franchises to deal with whatever media-driven distractions -- and there were many -- Vick's presence on the roster would present. By his own admission, Dungy did it because he recognized the larger societal impact Vick's return to the NFL could make. Dungy has been educated on the damage inflicted upon black and brown men by America's immoral and unevenly executed war on drugs and love affair with mass incarceration.

Criminality is a choice. Sexuality is not.

Do you understand my point?

Many religious and other socially conservative people believe homosexuality is a choice, no different from dealing drugs, cheating on your taxes or adopting a pet. And more troubling, they believe gays are unworthy of equality based on their choice. Tony Dungy promotes his Christian faith and values. He has stated repeatedly that Michael Sam deserves the opportunity to play in the NFL. But Dungy has made it equally clear he would not have the resolve to be the head coach to give Sam that opportunity.

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