Dungy's comments better left unsaid

Hogwash. The New England Patriots managed to hobble through training camp just fine last year, and the "distraction" brought on by having Tebow in their midst for one summer affected their preparation so greatly that they only won 12 games and the AFC East en route to an appearance in the AFC Championship Game.

In Sam's case, the silliness carries the stench of bigotry and really has no justification. Michael Sam has not been a distraction to the Rams, who have a good, experienced coaching staff that is managing whatever needs to be managed just fine. The flare-up referenced Tuesday about the Oprah Winfrey Network reality show really shouldn't have been an issue in the first place, and once it was, Sam and the Rams defused it deftly. Dungy's words will have no effect on the Rams, because the Rams are already good with Sam and all that comes with him.

The problem is that Dungy's words can, and likely will, have an effect on other teams and front offices to come. There's little doubt that, somewhere around the NFL, there are people in positions of power who would choose not to pursue an openly gay player for reasons of bigotry and/or fear. Dungy has now publicly offered such people and such front offices a ready-made excuse. If you're a GM or a scouting director who's prejudiced against or scared of the societal progress Sam represents, you're now licensed to pass on him and all who follow him and use the "distraction" issue as your excuse. And when you do, if people want to pick at it and ask you how you can say such a thing, you can now say, "Well, Tony Dungy said it! And everybody respects him!"

The extra that comes with Sam matters in the big picture, and it's a shame that someone in Dungy's position would say something that might affect it negatively. The point of what Sam is doing, and the reason he's doing it publicly, is so that others who find themselves in the same situation in the future can come out and live openly without fear that doing so will keep them from pursuing their dreams. Dungy's words can do damage to that progress, and, for that reason, he shouldn't have said them.

I'm not here to call Tony Dungy a bigot or to dispute his right to say what he wants to say. My point here is that Dungy has a platform and that his words matter to those who work in and follow the NFL. And on an issue such as this, it's important for a person in Dungy's position to understand that and to think about the impact his words have on the world at large. Again, he's welcome to his opinion. He just needs to remember how many people are listening to it.

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