NFL NEWS: Michael Sam
Tony Dungy’s comments on Michael Sam set off a backlash when he called him a distraction as the first openly gay NFL player.
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) July 23, 2014
Dungy, who sprouted one of the most influential coaching trees in the NFL, is no stranger to controversy after his successful coaching stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts. Dungy mentored Michael Vick during his incarceration for dog fighting leading to Vick’s career resurgence with the Philadelphia Eagles.
When asked about his former mentor’s comments on ESPN radio, current Bucs coach Lovie Smith said, “Tony is a man of conviction. He says what’s on his mind.” Smith said Dungy would take everything into consideration much like he is doing on his team.
Smith along with 30 other NFL coaches passed on Sam throughout the draft until St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher selected him with the 249th pick.
While media figures like Oprah Winfrey were ready to capitalize on Sam’s journey to NFL prominence, he found himself a bigger mountain than just making the NFL as a seventh rounder. The former University of Missouri All-American has made himself a martyr much like another much-aligned player with a storied collegiate career, quarterback Tim Tebow.
While Christians have ardently defended Tebow through his NFL career, a number of prominent LBGT voices have labeled Dungy a bigot for daring to say what 31 other coaches may not openly admit to, Sam being a distraction. Other distractions like Tebow, Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson have yet to find new NFL homes.
Sam has enough pressure as a seventh rounder to make an impact player in the league. The pressure’s even greater as the first openly gay NFL player. Sam’s human, but anointing him the “Great Gay Hope” is unrealistic and unfair. Sam needs time to develop and grow as a player. Perhaps some day, the public can respond the unfamiliarity with, “So?”