While Michael Sam may have won an ESPY this past week for his decision to come out just prior to the the NFL draft, not everyone in the league is in favor of having an openly-gay player.
For months, unnamed sources throughout the league have expressed concerns about the distractions it could bring and the potential for a divided locker room. Now someone is putting a name on it, and it’s an unlikely source.
NBC analyst and former Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy told Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune that if he was still coaching, he wouldn’t have drafted Sam.
“I wouldn’t have taken him,” Dungy said. “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.”
He added, “It’s not going to be totally smooth … things will happen.’’
Sam was drafted in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams, and it was Rams head coach Jeff Fisher sitting beside Sam and his partner when he was presented with the Arthur Ashe Award.
So obviously someone is okay with it, even if league pressure did or did not play a role in drafting him. All it takes is one team to help orchestrate a culture overhaul.
But Dungy’s comments, combined with the recent suspension of Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer over homophobic remarks, illustrate what many suspected — not everyone wants an ‘out’ NFL.
It might come as a surprise for some, given Dungy has gone to prisons to minister to inmates. He mentored Michael Vick, who was sentenced 23 months in federal prison on dog fighting charges.
He’s ministered to everyone from drug dealers and car-jacking thieves to child abusers and convicted murders.
He’s also served as an advocate for racial equality in the NFL and advocating for more opportunities when it comes to the hiring of minority coaches.
But clearly he doesn’t view racial and social equality in the same category, even in the 21st century, where the LGBT community’s plight has shifted from merely gaining acceptance to a full-blown civil rights campaign.
As of today, 19 states now allow same-sex couples to wed, with more and more bans being struck down daily in an increasingly-progressive social climate.
But Dungy’s ultra-conservative, Christian beliefs don’t allow him to see beyond Sam’s sexual orientation, shedding light on a mindset that still exists in much of America and in NFL locker rooms, where homosexuality is a “bad choice” and it’s “taboo.”
So while Dungy has proudly crusaded for no more guns and encouraging fans to not only forgive, but to accept people like Vick, he’s made it clear where his acts of charity end.
At least he’s bold enough to admit to it and put a name on it.