Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy has been under much scrutiny this week after his controversial statements regarding his stance on drafting Michael Sam had resurfaced from a few weeks prior. On Tuesday, Dungy finally cleared the air to the media and has appeared to put everything back into context, preventing additional negative angles on the matter with this statement:
“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 see Dungy’s comments as completely fair. In no way did he create the impression of having an ill will towards Sam or his sexual orientation. Dungy also previously noted in this interview that his original comment was in response to the news of Oprah Winfrey‘s potential reality television show about Sam, which was later written off.
He was also never asked about his feelings toward Sam’s sexual orientation, or his feelings on Sam’s ability to play in the NFL due to his sexual orientation. As a former NFL coach who has been in the same room as NFL scouts for many years, Dungy was just being brutally honest from his own perspective, and he had every right to be.
On Tuesday, Sam was approached by ESPN’s St. Louis Rams writer Nick Wagoner, and was asked to comment on Dungy’s recent statements. Sam stated that he has a lot of respect for Dungy, and that everyone is entitled to their own opinions.
ESPN NFL analyst Mark Schlereth brought up a valuable question to ask on this subject: “Does the talent outweigh the distraction?” In Sam’s case so far, the distraction of all the publicity has definitely outweighed his ability, and that may hurt him going into training camp.
It really is a shame knowing that in the world of social media today, an honest opinion from a respected public figure and coach like Dungy can easily be taken out of context, which in turn can create a whirlwind of controversy. There is no doubt Sam’s monumental actions have forever changed the culture of the NFL for the better, but it will be interesting to see how the NFL defines distractions in the future as well.