Former Indianapolis and Tampa Bay head coach Tony Dungy has made his feelings known on Michael Sam. You remember Sam. He’s the Defensive Tackle from Missouri that decided it was a good idea to announce to the world his sexual preference BEFORE the NFL draft.
Many felt the reason for Sam to announce he was Gay prior to the draft was to assure himself of being drafted. Had he gone undrafted it could set up a lawsuit against the league for discrimination. Fortunately the story was “Cinderella-like”, St. Louis and coach Jeff Fisher picked Sam in the 7th round. The kid from Mizzou was home.
Then comes Dungy, a devout Christian man and very respected individual around the league. Dungy has walked into a hailstorm. Even more than the one he caused while supporting Michael Vick 5 years ago.
After Vick was released from prison for operating a dog fighting ring, Dungy acted as Vick’s counselor and mentor. Even with animal rights activists crying out to the NFL against a possible Vick return, Dungy was one of the most outspoken the quarterback deserved another shot. Eventually brokering a deal for Vick to return to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Now Dungy is talking Michael Sam. Whether he chose the issue or it chose him isn’t clear yet. It came on a very common and unheralded interview, which is where most trouble begins. Dungy told the Tampa Bay Tribune he would not have selected Michael Sam into the NFL if he was still coaching.
Today Dungy is being questioned for these comments. Where is he wrong? Michael Sam should get the chance to play, however Dungy just wouldn’t want to be the coach to give that chance. Dungy didn’t say it was because Sam was Gay, just that he didn’t want to put up with the “circus” that will follow. And Dungy isn’t wrong.
Almost immediately after the draft, Sam moved to forward his interests. Before he had even gone through a mini camp, Sam agreed to a documentary produced by the Oprah Winfrey network OWN set to roll into St. Louis to tell Sam’s story. Then the backlash began and made many wondered if Sam was only interested in earning money to further his cause. The circus had begun.
Once the program started clouding the issue, Sam’s camp announced the project would be put on hold, Meaning it was dead in the water. Yet the issue hasn’t died.
What can we expect? Take Tim Tebow times ten, maybe 100. ESPN surrounded Tebow’s every move in an NF camp. From Denver, to the New York Jets and finally the Patriots. Not because he was such a great player, but because of his stance. Tebow, like Dungy is a devout Christian. Every reporter wanted to be the one who caught Tebow doing something UN-christainlike.
Sam will be a media circus. There will not only be reporters from the main stream media following Sam’s every move, but also every Gay rights media organization, publication and blog site. They will be looking to see if Sam is being handled differently and how the other players are around him. Then what happens if Sam doesn’t make the team? Will Fisher have to receive permission from Roger Goodell to cut Sam? Will the NFL have to worry about another lawsuit?
Correlation can be made with Johnny Manziel. Manziel is a walking news story. Manziel is a walking distraction. We knew coming out of Texas A & M with his “money” signs and alleged infractions this was a player with distractions that could outweigh his positives. Too many questions followed his act. Yet one team, in this case the Cleveland Browns, took a chance. They accepted the media scrutiny.
Nary a weekend has gone by since he was drafted 22nd by the Cleveland Browns that we haven’t seen a picture of Manziel somewhere, allegedly inebriated and taking selfies with others. The National and local media have already anointed Manziel the starting quarterback. He is the future of the franchise before a snap has been taken, before a play has been run, before a game has been played.
Not only did Tony Dungy admit his feelings on Michael Sam, but so did 31 teams through 6 rounds before St. Louis finally made him there choice. The only difference was Dungy used the spoken word, while every team but the Rams made their choice by not making him a choice.
Who can blame a football coach for not wanting a circus around training camp. Most coaches don’t want the HBO program “Hard Knocks” in their facilities. They don’t want the distractions.
All Dungy did was voice an opinion many around the NFL had on both players. You cannot separate Sam from Manziel. Both have their problems each team has to overcome. Yes the instances are different, yet the same. But both come with the media circus that no coach wants in training camp.
Dungy isn’t wrong. Maybe he should have added why or maybe the reporter should have asked. But he wasn’t wrong. Both Michael Sam and Johnny Manziel will be training camp distractions.
Dave Mitchell co-hosts with Mark Donahue the UST talk show “Ohio Baseball Weekly,” highlighting the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds. The Show is at 9pm every Monday evening. He is also the host of the “Ultimate Sports Talk” show every Thursday night at 7pm. If you have a comment on this or any other article,email Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @ohbbcohost or @ultsportstalk.