NFL Analyst Tony Dungy Says He Wouldn’t Have Drafted Michael Sam

Tony Dungy

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 was not asked whether or not Michael Sam deserves an opportunity to play in the NFL.  He absolutely does.

I was not asked whether his sexual orientation should play a part in the evaluation process.  It should not.

I was not asked whether I would have a problem having Michael Sam on my team.  I would not.

I have been asked all of those questions several times in the last three months and have always answered them the same way—by saying that playing in the NFL is, and should be, about merit.

The best players make the team, and everyone should get the opportunity to prove whether they’re good enough to play.  That’s my opinion as a coach.  But those were not the questions I was asked.

What I was asked about was my philosophy of drafting, a philosophy that was developed over the years, which was to minimize distractions for my teams.

I do not believe Michael’s sexual orientation will be a distraction to his teammates or his organization.

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.

I wish Michael Sam nothing but the best in his quest to become a star in the NFL and I am confident he will get the opportunity to show what he can do on the field.

My sincere hope is that we will be able to focus on his play and not on his sexual orientation.