Christianity,  Sports

Why Tony Dungy is the “Worst Person” in Sports

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.]


  • Gus Nelson

    Olbermann is the same guy who, upon Tim Tebow being cut by the Patriots said the following: “He will be the textbook example, studied by journalism students for centuries to come, how major sports news operations, could, without exterior provocation, get so deep into the self-inflating souffle that is hyping the irrelevant, that they could damage their own reputations and never really realize it nor swerve out of it, nor really have to swerve out of it, because no matter how silly the hype got and how much the organizations got criticized for it, the readers kept reading and the viewers kept viewing.” And the constant replay of Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend upon being drafted was something other than “hyping the irrelevant?” Whether Sam is a homosexual doesn’t have any bearing on whether he will or will not be a sufficiently good football player to make the team, right? Isn’t all this precisely what Dungy was trying to get at? The very reaction to Dungy’s comments makes his point. What happens when the Rams cut Sam because he simply isn’t a good enough player to make the team? (Seventh round draft choices rarely make it). What will Olbermann and his gang say then? The Rams are a homophobic organization? The coach, Jeff Fisher, is the new worst person in sports and should be fired? The Rams owner should be forced to sell?

    • Ian Shaw

      What happens when the Rams cut Sam because he simply isn’t a good enough player to make the team? (Seventh round draft choices rarely make it). What will Olbermann and his gang say then? The Rams are a homophobic organization? The coach, Jeff Fisher, is the new worst person in sports and should be fired? The Rams owner should be forced to sell?

      Yes, when he is cut (as it is statistically likely), people will come out in droves to say that they cut him because of his orientation, ignoring the fact that he got beat for the open spots on the roster. But hey, practice squad guys can make some pretty good money too. When he is cut, the masses will decry the Rams as being homophobic and there will be lawsuits filed (non should be taken seriously though).

      And brother Tebow was talented, but no coach in the NFL wanted to build an offense around Tim’s skill set.

      • Nathan Mayfield

        Ian, this is precisely why Dungy made his comment. The only reason Sam gets any headlines is b/c of his coming out. Any other 7th round pick gets zero headlines except in the city he grew up in. I think the Rams will be obligated to keep this guy (for at least one year) in order to not experience the wrath of the media. With the talent the Rams have on defense I just can’t see Sam (who is undersized and slow – 4.9 forty) making this team, but the organization is now obligated.

        Give Sam credit. He knew that he only needed some team to draft him in order to gain his fame. His teammates at Mizzou knew he was gay and it didn’t get him any fame. I don’t believe for a minute that Sam simply wants to let his football play be his microphone.

        • Ian Shaw

          Nathan, I agree with you. There could have been more talented LB’s in the 7th round than him and he had a really poor combine. But I’m sure you are aware you will be shot with flaming digital arrows for saying that.

          Practice squad guys can make $40-$70k per year. That’s not bad, especially in this economy. Though you are limited in the # of years you can do that, I think.

          Anybody offer Tim Tebow a reality show? What about Jeremy Lin? As Spock would say, “fascinating…..”

  • Ian Shaw

    The mere fact that his reality show on the Oprah network was pretty much all set to go before the draft says something about where his priorities were. Granted, the show is on hiatus at this time, but you have to admit that to many on the outside, that looks like a “strike while the iron’s hot” mentality.

  • pauljacobsblog

    Keith Overbite is one of the few people in the entire world that has never joined the side of humanity with a double helix. Not meaning to insult the single-helixes crowd, I am just saying.

  • Chris Ryan

    I’m a huge, huge fan of Tony Dungy’s and while I’m inclined to accept the argument printed here & the one he writes in his follow up comments, I do remember that he didn’t seem so worried abt the “media distraction” when the Eagles signed Michael Vick. The only thing that should matter abt Sams is whether or not he performs on the field. Everything else is irrelevant.

    • Ian Shaw

      The attention that Michael Sam has gotten in the media due to his sexual orientation, will very shortly surpass the media coverage on Vick for his dogfighting. Sam’s coverage will quickly surpass it.

      When Vick signed with the Eagles, he has already aplogized or his acitons and sought forgiveness, so the media attentnion was already on a down trend at that point anyway.

  • Matt Martin

    Dungy is a great guy. But he is being a hypocrite here by citing he wouldn’t have drafted Sam because of the distractions when Dungy was very vocal in supporting Michael Vick despite all of his distractions.

    It’s just another example of why the world has a hard time believing that Christians treat and love homosexuals the same as they would a heterosexual. The truth is we don’t.

    • Ian Shaw

      What about the people that said they wouldn’t sign Tim Tebow because of the “distractions”, but are championing Sam for being a ‘hero’ and ‘courageous’ today? Isn’t that the real definition of being hypocritical? Taking one side and then conveniently changing opinions? Dungy hasn’t done that. Please explain this to me

    • Curtis Sheidler

      No hypocrisy at all. Dungy took on mentorship of Vick to help him rehabilitate his character when he wasn’t coaching an NFL team. In the interview, he was asked whether he’d have drafted Sam if he were an active NFL coach. The two situations aren’t analogous.

    • Rick Stone

      I don’t see Dungy as being hypocritical here at all. Michael Vick is a QB, the 1st player picked overall in the draft, and a potential difference maker (at least before he was sent to jail). As a coach, it makes sense that you would be willing to put up with distractions associated with a difference maker and not willing to put up with distractions associated with a spare special teams player.

    • Ian Shaw

      The script meaning popular opinion? Fact of the matter is that Dungy at no point mentioned Sam’s sexual orientation.

      Those vox populi that are blasting the Giants are committing the same thing they are decrying Dungy for doing. It’s only hypocritical if it’s the opposition to your viewpoint, right?

      • Lauren Bertrand

        Dungy does generally seem like a good guy, but come on, let’s be frank here: no reason anyone would have mentioned Sam for anything, if it weren’t for his sexual orientation (which, quite obviously, Sam has more than accommodated the media swirl that has surrounded him). If Dungy really wanted to transcend the situation, he could have just not said anything. But, in light of the kid-gloves by which the NFL has treated the “rehabilitation” of Vick—or the countless other felons and thugs in professional football–it’s hard to see the fuss over Sam’s hypothetical distraction as being anything but hypocritical. Even Sam’s own family have acknowledged that he was the golden child, since most of his siblings are in prison or dissolute. Yet somehow drafting Sam is far more controversial.

        One person who has to be grateful for all this Michael Sam “distraction” is Manti Te’o. Now that he’s the decent-but-hardly-outstanding player we all expected him to be, he sure has faded from the limelight.

        • Ian Shaw

          Good point on Te’o. However, if you compare combines and the talent that we’ve seen, Te’o has more talent and has a roster spot. Yet to be seen from Sam.

          The NFL is bending over backwards by having sensitivity training as a result of Michael Sam being drafted. You think they are going above & beyond and a bit overkill just in case of a lawsuit to keep their hands clean?

  • Curtis Sheidler

    Another thing that just occurred to me as I’ve been thinking about this the past couple of days: Olbermann thinks Dungy is so terrible because Dungy says he wouldn’t have drafted Sam if he WERE still an NFL head coach, right?

    So how does that make Dungy any worse than the 31 NFL coaches WHO ACTUALLY HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO DRAFT SAM, AND DIDN’T?

    For their fourth round pick, the Seahawks chose Cassius Marsh out of UCLA. He plays the same position as Sam but didn’t have anywhere NEAR the accolades that Sam earned while playing against an arguably far higher level of talent. Furthermore, Marsh is both smaller AND slower than Sam (judging by combine performance). So despite an obvious perception of need at the position, the Seahawks chose a player whose tangible performance PALED in comparison to Sam….and yet DUNGY is the one getting lambasted by the media.

    Even Jeff Fisher, the Rams coach who eventually DID draft Sam chose two largely lackluster players well ahead of him–one an SMU quarterback who wasn’t good enough to make the cut at a big-time program like Texas and the other an OT who played in a lower division than Sam.

    It’s absolutely amazing how many people are willing to leverage their common sense when evaluating statements like Dungy’s.

    • Ian Shaw

      Very good point. Perhaps people look to target those who are outspoken and Christian. Dungy was asked a question. He’s not going to lie with an answer. Shame on the media for blasting him, when 31 other coaches/GM’s probably thought the exact same thing as Dungy and their action (inaction to draft Sam in this case) proved it.

      • Jeff Clement

        Dang it Denny. Just when I have erased the train wreck that is Keith Oberman from my consciousness, you have to pull me back in.
        I guess I’ll get back in the pool. Those are strong words for man such a kind hearted, even tempered commentator like Oberman (ahem….that was tough to write). May I add that he is calling a man who has survived the suicide of his son “the worst person in the world”. Sorry Mr Overman…but your seething doesn’t translate to sports commentary like Left wing politics.

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