Yes, when Tony Dungy stated over the weekend that he wouldn’t have drafted openly-gay NFL rookie Michael Sam because “things will happen,” he was — somewhat refreshingly — breaking from the media status quo and saying something publicly that a lot of NFL front-office types have said privately and/or off the record.
What Dungy was essentially getting at — at least from my perspective — is the idea that NFL coaches truly do live year-to-year, maybe even month-to-month, week-to-week. Hell, game-to-game. And so in a cut-throat business like this one, you have to think about potential distractions, weighing out whether certain players — sometimes through no fault of their own — are worth gambling on.
But some moves, some events, some developments in the world of sports are simply bigger than those micro decisions. This is one of them. The St. Louis Rams looked past any potential distractions — which, let’s face it, are being blown up by right-wing America anyway — and instead decided to do something that many consider to be revolutionary.
Les Snead and Jeff Fisher are now in the process of making football history for a reason that is completely and utterly unique. They’re now pioneers, and as our society becomes more accepting of men like Sam, history will very likely cast them in a light that is separate from the one Dungy drew by winning a Super Bowl — something 30 coaches have accomplished.
In that respect, Dungy is being short-sighted. In another respect, he’s admitting to being selfish.
If everyone refused to hire minorities because it could cause a distraction, no minority group would ever make any progress. Dungy has praised the late Chuck Noll for adding Dungy to the Steelers’ coaching staff in 1981, at a time when most NFL teams didn’t have any African-American assistant coaches. What if Noll had declined to hire Dungy because he worried that some of the white assistant coaches would have a problem with a black colleague?
And as Will Brinson of CBS Sports points out, it is rather odd than Dungy supported Michael Vick at a time in which was considered to be a tremendous potential distraction. Vick is a straight black man with a felony in his back pocket, whereas Sam is a gay black man with no criminal record. What kind of message does that send?
Makes you think extra hard about Chris Kluwe’s recent suggestion that the NFL favors criminals over gay rights supporters.
Where are our priorities? And where is our view of the broader picture?