One day after his commentary regarding St. Louis Rams defensive end Michael Sam sparked plenty of discussion, former NFL head coach Tony Dungy set out to clarify his remarks Tuesday.
According to Ira Kaufman of The Tampa Tribune, Dungy revealed that he would not have selected Sam if he was in the same position as Rams head coach Jeff Fisher.
"I wouldn’t have taken him," Dungy said. "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."
The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts head coach added some context to his comments Tuesday by saying—in part—that the interview was conducted when the maligned Sam reality series was still on the table, per Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio:
I was asked whether I would have drafted Michael Sam and I answered that I 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.
Dungy also made it clear that Sam's status as the NFL's first openly gay player is not what would have deterred him from selecting him:
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.
More specifically, Dungy said that the media coverage surrounding Sam is what primarily makes him a distraction:
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.
Following the release of Dungy's comments on Monday, there were many differing opinions within the media. ESPN's Stephen A. Smith didn't think what Dungy said was particularly controversial:
A.) Dungy's quote stated the obvious. Some folks wouldn't touch Sam because they, essentially, know their locker room and could do w/o it.— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 22, 2014
Ross Tucker of NBC Sports Network agreed and pointed out that the vast majority of the league had the same reservations regarding Sam:
Think some are confusing Tony Dungy's religious beliefs w/ his pragmatic Michael Sam quote. 31 teams felt same way.— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) July 22, 2014
Seth Davis of CBS Sports argued, however, that Dungy was being hypocritical since he supported New York Jets quarterback Michael Vick after he served time in prison for running a dog-fighting ring:
Re last RT...Tony Dungy would sign Michael Vick but not Michael Sam? He talks a lot about teaching moments. I hope he learns something here.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) July 22, 2014
It is unclear if Dungy's latest comments will change anyone's mind regarding his initial statement. Those who felt he was justified at first might still feel that way and vice versa.
As a media personality for NBC, Dungy is certainly entitled to his opinion. Sam has been a hot-button issue since he revealed that he is gay, and any comment regarding him is going to stir debate and conversation.
Sam's sexual orientation is always going to be a topic of discussion due to its historic significance and the popularity of the NFL. Yet another issue to be resolved surrounding Sam right now is in regard to his chances of making the Rams' final 53-man roster as he looks to turn heads on the field with his performance.
If Sam is able to do that, then it will be interesting to see how or if Dungy responds in the future.
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