Yesterday, Keith Olbermann gave Tony Dungy the dubious distinction of being “The Worst Person in the Sports World” (see above). Why? Because of Dungy’s recent remarks about Michael Sam.
Did Dungy disparage Sam’s sexual orientation? No. Did Dungy say that Sam shouldn’t be given a chance? No. Did Dungy say anything that could be construed as unfair toward Sam’s prospects for the Rams? No.
So what’s the deal? Why is Olbermann calling him the worst person in the sports world? Because Dungy said that he wouldn’t have risked the media distraction that would have come with drafting Michael Sam.
What Dungy didn’t say—and what would have given context to his remarks—is that Michael Sam is an unproven prospect. What Dungy could have said—and certainly would have been excoriated if he had—is that Sam may or may not have the skills to make it in the league. Reading between the lines, Dungy is simply saying that Sam’s on-the-field performance cannot make up for the off-the-field distractions that come with drafting him. What people are failing to recognize is that Dungy’s remarks have a lot less to do with Sam’s sexuality than with his prospects as a player.
Dungy tried to clarify his remarks in a statement yesterday, but nobody is listening. Olbermann and almost everyone else in sports media are treating Dungy like he is the worst person in the world. They are also accusing Dungy of things that he did not say or intend. They are accusing Dungy of personal animus toward a gay player—an animus growing out of Dungy’s Christian faith. The subtext is clear. “Behold! This is what happens when a person holds Christian convictions about sexuality.” Now who’s the worst person in the world?
Ted Kluck‘s remarks at The Gospel Coalition are right on the money. Kluck writes,
As soon as I saw Tony Dungy’s recent quotes about the Michael Sam situation, saying that he wouldn’t have drafted Sam because he “wouldn’t want to deal with” the baggage, I knew he would be publicly castigated. Dungy deviated from our culture’s de facto “Things That Are Acceptable to Say About Michael Sam” talking points. Here’s a short list of those points about Sam, drafted this year in the seventh and final round as the first openly gay player in the National Football League:
- He’s a hero
- He’s courageous
And that’s about it.
That is about it. At the end of the day, this really isn’t even about Dungy’s views on the NFL and sexual orientation. It’s about his failure to get in line with the script. If you greet Michael Sam’s story with anything less than an ESPY award, then you are an enemy of the human race.
[Olbermann’s extended remarks are below.]