Tony Dungy, a Hypocritical Creature From the Ignorant Abyss of American Christian Extremism
**Background: On July 21, 2014, I received a phone call from a female U.S. military fighter pilot. She happens to be gay. She is not “out”, despite the fact that the odious “don’t ask don’t tell” policy no longer burdens the American armed forces and has been justly abolished. She knows well that homophobia is still rampant in the ranks, which is why the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) currently has 863 LGBTQ clients among our current number of over 38,000 U.S. military members and veterans, 96% of whom are practicing Christians themselves. She related that she had just experienced a loud conversation in her squadron area where a number of her fellow pilots were robustly cheering on Tony Dungy’s comments about how he would never have drafted Michael Sam for a team for which he was head coach and why. Michael Sam is the NFL’s first openly gay player. She told me that her fellow pilots were effusively praising Dungy’s “honesty” etc. She was terribly distraught. She asked me what I thought about it. This Op-Ed is my response to her.
A maelstrom of extremism is battering the United States of America, weakening and eroding the fundamental values of tolerance and inclusion embodied by our beautiful Constitution. The name of this extremist threat? Fundamentalist Christianity or “Dominionism.” This disturbing storm trend has entailed the infiltration of all fields of social life in U.S. schools, military bases, and a plethora of other key fora. Indeed, the three branches of civilian government have become bloody battlegrounds for the advancement of a hateful and bigoted agenda of American Christian extremist exceptionalism and supremacy. Big-box retailers, chicken sandwich purveyors, school boards and school districts, police departments, fire departments, sewage workers, legislatures, celebrities, and sports figures have served no small role as pawns, masterminds, and auxiliaries in this seditious modern-day brutal Crusade. A case in point is former Super Bowl-winning NFL head coach, NBC commentator, and unabashed homophobe, Tony Dungy.
Dungy showed his true colors as a classic bigot when he suggested that, were he still a head NFL coach, he would have avoided drafting Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL. In the interview, Dungy, now a well-known national sports commentator, opined on Sam: "I wouldn't have taken him. It's not going to be totally smooth ... things will happen."
The cruel irony and almost unbearable hypocrisy of the comment is obvious to those who’ve followed Dungy’s career, which was anything but “totally smooth.” Dungy was the first African-American coach to win the Super Bowl, and had personally dealt with the sometimes subtle, sometimes rabid racist impediments to his own career. “Things” happened, the dogs tore into the red meat, yet Dungy himself persevered – and in so doing, paved the way for a more prominent role for black coaches within a formerly hyper-insular, white-dominated fraternity of NFL coaching.
Political pundit and sports commentator Keith Olbermann perfectly punctured Dungy’s mendacious malevolence with characteristic astuteness: “‘I wouldn’t want to deal with it, things will happen,’ is remarkably similar to what football coaches and owners said until 1946 about players who looked like Tony Dungy. And it’s remarkably similar to what NFL owners said until 1989 about guys who wanted to become NFL head coaches who look like Tony Dungy.”
“Things” tend to happen when people fight for access to places from which they were previously, unjustly barred – yet now this former poster child for equal access is placing more barricades on the road to freedom. One can only wonder if Dungy would have had similar “advice” in relation to the desegregation of public schools and the armed forces! Perhaps he would have the nerve to protest the “distraction” to learning represented by integrated classrooms and military service branches? Oh how Jackie Robinson must be rolling over in his grave.