Tony Dungy, Michael Sam comments controversy: Former NFL coach responds to criticism

Coach releases statement to clarify comments

INDIANAPOLIS - Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy found himself at the center of controversy Monday because of comments he made about Michael Sam, an openly gay linebacker who the St. Louis Rams drafted.

Dungy's comment appeared Sunday in a Tampa Tribune article titled "NFL holding players to higher standard." 

In the article, Dungy was quoted as saying, "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," Dungy said.

That ignited a firestorm of controversy, resulting in ESPN's Keith Olbermann calling him the "world's worst person in sports."

Olbermann lambasted Dungy , pointing out that in 2007 he received an award from the Indiana Family Institute , a group that led efforts to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman. 

He also claimed inconsistency in Dungy's stance, considering he advocated the return of Michael Vick to the NFL after Vick's dog-fighting conviction.

"Tony Dungy just admitted that Tony Dungy wouldn't be a skilled enough coach to deal with the distraction of doing the right thing," Olbermann said.

Dungy, now an analyst for NBC, released a statement Tuesday clarifying his comment, saying that he gave the interview several weeks ago and answered the questions that were asked. 

"I was asked whether I would have drafted Michael Sam and I answered that I would not have drafted him. I gave my honest answer, which is that I felt drafting him would bring much distraction to the team," read part of Dungy's statement. "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."

Dungy said that he wouldn't have a problem having Sam on his team if he were coach.

"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," part of Dungy's response said. "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."

Dungy said he believes the media attention that comes with drafting Sam will be a distraction and pointed to the controversy his comments created as an example of that.

"Unfortunately we are all seeing this play out now, and I feel badly that my remarks played a role in the distraction," Dungy said in the statement. "My sincere hope is that we will be able to focus on his play and not on his sexual orientation."

 

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