HRC Blog

Tony Dungy Clarifies Comments on Michael Sam

Earlier in the day, we posted to the blog about comments from former NFL coach Tony Dungy that appeared in a news story in which he is quoted as saying he would have not drafted openly gay Michael Sam because it would be have been too difficult.

Since then, Dungy has released a statement clarifying his remarks, making clear that Sam’s sexual orientation would not have been a factor in his decision to not draft him. Instead, the media circus surrounding a recently announced reality show about Sam was what prompted Dungy to make the comments.

In his statement, Dungy makes clear that, “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.”  He goes on to say, “I do not believe Michael's sexual orientation will be a distraction to his teammates or his organization.” 

Dungy’s statement in its entirety appears below:

On Monday afternoon while on vacation with my family, I was quite surprised to read excerpts from an interview I gave several weeks ago related to this year's NFL Draft, and I feel compelled to clarify those remarks. 

I was asked whether I would have drafted Michael Sam and I answered that 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.

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