On Tuesday night, Tony Dungy spoke at an event organized by the Indiana Family Institute (IFI), a conservative group that favors a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. In his speech, Dungy voiced his support for that initiative:
“IFI is saying what the Lord says,” Dungy said. “You can take that and make your decision on which way you want to be. I’m on the Lord’s side.”
The coach said his comments shouldn’t be taken as gay bashing, but rather his views on the matter as he sees them from a perspective of faith.
“We’re not anti- anything else. We’re not trying to downgrade anyone else. But we’re trying to promote the family — family values the Lord’s way,” Dungy said.
Clearly this differs from the infamous Tim Hardaway incident because Hardaway said he hated gay people and got all inflammatory, whereas Dungy is a pretty mild-mannered guy. But is it really all that different, aside from the word choice and setting? Does invoking faith give one carte blanche to demean the lifestyle of others as not “the Lord’s way”? And does the NFL care about the public image of the league that this creates? David Stern immediately distanced the NBA from Hardaway’s rant, while the NFL has remained silent thus far on the Colts coach.
I wonder what exactly Dungy means when he says he isn’t “anti” anything else. Would he be comfortable coaching a gay player on his team? As a former player himself, would Dungy have been comfortable with a gay teammate? The coach has refused to answer any such questions thus far, but now he’s gone an opened that can of worms.
Asking these questions might get us into more Hardaway-like territory, though the coach will probably be wise enough to couch his responses (if he ever gives any) in terms that won’t make waves. Even so, enough waves have been made in my mind. Tony Dungy, the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl, has shown himself to be a bigot.
It’s unfortunate that these two recent incidents involving Dungy, Hardaway, and two major American sports show that there are still acceptable and unacceptable ways to express one’s homophobia in public.
UPDATE: I don’t know why I can’t fix the spacing in this post. Anyway, here’s the NFL’s statement on the matter:
“Coach Dungy is speaking for himself and expressing his views, which he is fully entitled to do,” league officials said in a statement. “No doubt there are people in our league that have a different view. We respect the right of employees to have and express their views and don’t regulate the political or religious views of team or league employees.”