Former NFL head coach Tony Dungy has clarified comments attributed to him about Michael Sam, the University of Missouri player who came out as gay before the draft and could become the league’s first openly-gay player if he makes the final roster cut.
Dungy told the Tampa Tribune he would not have selected Sam if he had been coaching.
“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.’’
The comments created an outpouring of reaction on Twitter and other social media, with some welcoming Dungy’s comments and others criticizing him, noting he was the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl, has dealt with racially-charged incidents, and has written a book titled ‘Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL.’
Dungy was also openly advocated for Michael Vick to get a second chance in the NFL after being convicted of running a dog-fighting ring.
On Tuesday, the former Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach released a statement to NBC Sports/Pro Football Talk, saying he was surprised to read his quotes from an interview he gave “several weeks ago.”
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. 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.