The first African-American coach to win the Super Bowl has a lot of people up in arms with his comments about the first openly gay player in the NFL, Michael Sam. NBC analyst Tony Dungy recently stated that he wouldn’t have drafted Michael Sam because of the level of distraction that comes along with him.
“I wouldn’t have taken him. Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it. […] It’s not going to be totally smooth … things will happen.”
Many are looking at Dungy’s comments as insensitive. But the reality is, as monumental as Sam’s announcement was, he was a seventh round pick, who many scouts looked at as a tweener. When it’s time for cuts, if Sam is on the fringe, what will the Rams do? If they cut him, many will simply assume it’s based on his sexual preference, not because his talent was deemed so-so. If you keep him and cut someone more deserving, it sets up a presidence. The media questions will continue of Sam, and his teammates for the entire NFL season.
This won’t be the last discussion on this topic. Even though Michael Sam said he wanted to be viewed as “just a football player” when he came out, it’s unlikely that he’ll ever be introduced as “NFL player Michael Sam,” the gay descriptor will be always be attached. Double edged sword.
Tony Dungy has clarified his remarks on Michael Sam.
On Monday afternoon while on vacation with my family, I was quite surprised to read excerpts from an interview I gave several weeks ago related to this year’s NFL Draft, and I feel compelled to clarify those remarks.
I was asked whether I would have drafted Michael Sam and I answered that would not have drafted him. I gave my honest answer, which is that I felt drafting him would bring much distraction to the team. At the time of my interview, the Oprah Winfrey reality show that was going to chronicle Michael’s first season had been announced.
I do, however, believe that the media attention that comes with it will be a distraction. Unfortunately we are all seeing this play out now, and I feel badly that my remarks played a role in the distraction.