Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Dungy would deny Sam the opportunity he was given

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Do unto others.

Well, just some others, says self-proclaimed Christian and former NFL coach turned TV analyst Tony Dungy.

Dungy says he wouldn't give Michael Sam the same opportunity Pittsburgh Steelers legend Chuck Noll gave a young, aspiring black coach back in the '80s when sidelines were patrolled by mostly-white coaching staffs.

Noll wasn't afraid of any backlash or inconvenience. He believed Dungy could be a good coach, so he hired him. Dungy went on to become the first black head coach to win the Super Bowl. A fair opportunity of which Dungy took full advantage to write one of the great American success stories. Dungy, however, were he still running an NFL organization, wouldn't extend a similar opportunity to the first openly gay player to be drafted to the NFL.

"I wouldn't have taken (Sam),'' said former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts coach Dungy. "Not because I don't believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn't want to deal with all of it.

"It's not going to be totally smooth...things will happen."

Good thing Branch Rickey didn't let similar consideration guide his decision when bringing Jackie Robinson to Major League Baseball.

Good thing Ralph Sazio didn't think the same way when giving Chuck Ealey an opportunity to play quarterback for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

And on and on and on.

Charles Barkley was right when he said, "I ain't no role model." Dungy, however, promotes himself as one. He stuck his neck out for dog-killer Michael Vick, first offering him guidance and later applying his blessing. Sam, however, doesn't qualify for any of Dungy's love. Wonder why.

What Dungy thinks about homosexuality doesn't matter. Dungy's comments, taken at face value, say he's just not interested in the hassle of coaching an openly gay player.


Although, knowing Dungy's history as a barrier breaker where his own career is concerned, one has to give consideration to the argument his comments come from a place other than not wanting to deal with the baggage that comes with drafting Sam.

Dungy's views, and he's on the record as being anti-gay marriage, are no different than mine or yours. They're neither right nor wrong; they're just ours.

But acting to prevent someone from pursuing a dream, and in this case gainful employment, because of their race, creed or sexual orientation has been determined unlawful by our society.

Thankfully, the St. Louis Rams don't see Sam as a human being unworthy of any added inconvenience.

"If you're going to take a leadership position by drafting Michael, you have to expect the good and the bad,'' said Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff. "We're prepared for it, and I think we'll shine through it."

Frankly, they already have. Dungy? Not so much.

One has to think, if asked about the difficulties associated with hiring black coaches in the era he came up in, Dungy would side with dealing with whatever came down the pipe.

Gay linebacker? Uh, no thanks, says Dungy.

We're all minorities of some sort. We should all be given chances to chase dreams. We should all have leaders such as Noll, Rickey and Demoff there to support our cause.

Dungy knows this. He's lived this. He's supposed to be a man of love. But it feels and sounds an awful lot like hate got the better of him on this day. Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 22, 2014 D1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.


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