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Tony Dungy: I wouldn’t have taken Michael Sam

Discussion in 'OFF TOPIC' started by Prime Time, Jul 21, 2014.

  1. Prime Time RODerator

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    Tony Dungy: I wouldn’t have taken Michael Sam
    Posted by Michael David Smith on July 21, 2014

    [​IMG]Getty Images

    Former Colts and Buccaneers head coach and current NBC analyst Tony Dungy says that if he were still an NFL head coach, he wouldn’t have drafted Michael Sam, who became the first openly gay player in league history when the Rams selected him in May.

    I wouldn’t have taken him,’’ Dungy told theTampa Tribune. “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.’’

    What Dungy is expressing publicly is similar to what some coaches and general managers have said privately, in anonymous quotes in stories about Sam before the draft. But Dungy is the highest-profile person in the NFL world to put his name behind the viewpoint that Sam would cause a distraction and would be more trouble than he’s worth.

    Dungy’s comments therefore serve as a reminder that the Rams deserve credit for not allowing the concerns about distractions to keep them from picking Sam. We don’t know how many teams passed on Sam because he’s gay and how many teams passed on Sam because they simply didn’t think he was a good enough player, but we do know that the Rams were the team that ended Sam’s fall late in the seventh round of the draft. Whether Sam pans out as a player or not, the Rams made history by making the NFL more inclusive.

    And that’s where Dungy’s comments become troubling. If everyone refused to hire minorities because it could cause a distraction, no minority group would ever make any progress. Dungy has praised the late Chuck Noll for adding Dungy to the Steelers’ coaching staff in 1981, at a time when most NFL teams didn’t have any African-American assistant coaches. What if Noll had declined to hire Dungy because he worried that some of the white assistant coaches would have a problem with a black colleague?

    Dungy may be right when he says “things will happen” because the Rams have an openly gay player on their roster, but those things aren’t Sam’s fault. And those things shouldn’t prevent any NFL team from drafting an openly gay player.

    NFL holding players to higher standard

    [​IMG]
    Rams draft pick Michael Sam is NFL’s first openly gay player.

    By Ira Kaufman | Tribune Staff
    Published: July 20, 2014

    TAMPA — Just another day at the office won’t quite cut it at the National Football League anymore.

    Branching out from its emphasis on player safety on the field, America’s most popular sport has turned its $9 billion attention to the mental health of its locker rooms.

    Rocked by a hazing and taunting scandal in Miami that led to a searing 144-page report, the NFL plans to dispatch ambassadors to all 32 teams this summer, reminding organizations that respect and proper rules of conduct should not end at the locker room door.

    The Rams strode into the national spotlight by drafting Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, who will become the NFL’s first openly gay player if he makes Jeff Fisher’s final roster after reporting with St. Louis rookies Tuesday.

    “I wouldn’t have taken him,’’ said former Bucs and Colts coach Tony Dungy, now an analyst for NBC. “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 Rams say they are ready for the scrutiny and the dynamics.

    “There’s a 90-man roster right now,’’ said St. Louis wide receiver T.J. Moe, who played with Sam at Missouri. “It doesn’t go 89, and then Michael Sam’s over there — this is the gay team, this is the straight team. Michael Sam is on this team and he’s treated just like anyone else.’’

    Not every player is as enlightened as Moe ... and Sam knows it.

    NFL locker rooms are no place for the thin-skinned. Players routinely chide each other on a range of issues from fashion choices to music preferences. The N-word is heard often, expressed openly and with no apparent regret.

    “Banning the N-word, good luck with that one,’’ Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline said.

    Still, the NFL appears determined to make civility a watchword in the inner sanctum.

    “It’s a behavior change and we feel it starts with leadership,’’ said Fisher, a longtime member of the NFL’s influential Competition Committee. “That’s leadership with the head coach, the owner or the general manager, but also leadership on your football team.’’

    Those cornerstones of leadership were found sorely missing in Miami, according to a report commissioned by the league to investigate allegations of bullying.

    In his review, defense lawyer Ted Wells concluded a “pattern of harassment’’ was initiated by three Dolphins toward offensive lineman Jonathan Martin and an assistant trainer. In this “classic case of bullying,’’ Martin walked off the team in October.

    NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says respect in the workplace has emerged as a top priority.

    “Locker rooms are unique,’’ he said. “And there are unique things we have to think about. We want them to be professional. We want them to be comfortable, everyone in that locker room, so they can focus on doing their job. That’s what we all owe them.’’

    Talking about tolerance in the workplace is one thing. Enforcing a more professional code of conduct is quite another.

    “You have to have strong, veteran leadership in the locker room,’’ Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. “As a head football coach, I have to have a pulse on what’s going on. I have to rely on a lot of different people and have relationships where information comes to me.’’

    In the aftermath of the Dolphins scandal, NFL head coaches could be motivated to take a more active role off the field.

    After the film breakdowns and the big speeches, a little small talk can go a long way.

    “It’s not the players’ locker room, it’s our locker room,’’ Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “It’s important there’s a presence of coaches there. Your leaders let guys know what is acceptable and unacceptable, but it’s also important for a coach to have interaction with his players.’’

    “As a coach, you can definitely play a role,’’ said new Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt, who led the 2008 Cardinals to the Super Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. “Communication is the most important thing. The locker room is a very diverse culture, lots of different guys from lots of different backgrounds. Somehow, they make it work. A lot of it comes down to the character of the people on your team.’’

    “As a head coach, you lay the foundation for how you want things to be done,’’ Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. “And when you have good leaders, they manage the rest. Personally, I’ll be in the locker room four or five times a day.’’

    “For me, I want structure without the feeling of structure,’’ Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “I want everybody in the building to know what is acceptable and I expect our guys to be professional. At the same time, I understand that individuals are individuals and I want to give them the latitude to do that.’’

    “You have to delegate,’’ Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “I’m not a micro-manager. You count on everybody to send the same message.’’

    “My personal opinion is that if you’re a head coach that does not go into the locker room, you’re not going to be a head coach for long,’’ Fisher said. “We have a responsibility to go in there and the players need to see the head coach in the locker room. If you allow that environment to become a sanctuary, then you lose control real quickly.’’

    St. Louis wouldn’t have drafted Sam in the seventh round if Fisher and team management didn’t believe the organization could handle all the extra attention.

    When Sam held his introductory news conference at Rams Park, the media horde included NBC Nightly News, the NFL Network, ESPN, Fox Sports 1, CNN, CBS Sports and the Oprah Winfrey Network.

    They weren’t there to check out first-round draft picks Greg Robinson and Aaron Donald.

    “All of us in the draft room were aware of the magnitude of the decision, how it would be a pivot in history,’’ Rams general manager Les Snead said. “Michael is the first, but somewhere in the future, guess what? He’s just going to be a name that a kid in middle school has got to memorize. We won’t think it’s anything special because it will be normal.’’

    Right now, it’s anything but.

    “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, a former Bucs executive. “We’re prepared for it, and I think we’ll shine through it.’’

    Sam is already a trailblazer, but he has more on his agenda than opening doors. Like any late-round draft choice, his top priority is surviving the cutdown process to the final 53.

    Adding to the challenge, the Rams boast one of the deepest and most talented defensive lines in the league.

    “They respect me as a human being and as a football player,” Sam said. “All the older guys are showing me the ropes so I can see how the program is run. I’m telling you, they get after it. I’ve got to step my game up to compete with this defensive line. I thought our defensive line at Mizzou was pretty tough — this is a whole new level.’’

    Even if Sam makes the team, he might have more hurdles to clear.

    Despite the NFL’s crackdown on intolerance, strong leaders will need to emerge if Sam’s lifestyle becomes an issue.

    “As far as I’m concerned, I felt like I was the captain and I was going to make things go a certain way,’’ said Hall of Fame middle linebacker Harry Carson, who policed the Giants locker room. “Nobody was going to be abused. We had a player on our team and everybody in the room knew he was gay. The subject never came up. Nobody said anything to him because he was our teammate and we protected him.’’

    Nets center Jason Collins, the first openly gay player in the NBA, said he experienced only one encounter last season with an opposing player who made a defamatory comment about his orientation.

    After 40 years in baseball, Rays manager Joe Maddon has seen his share of prejudice in professional sports.

    “Of course it’s naive to think there won’t be any problems surrounding Michael Sam,’’ Maddon said. “People are going to carry their judgments wherever they go. Once his teammates get to know him, hopefully they’ll understand his intentions are to win football games. But you’re going to have to put up with a group of people who will try to place their mores on everybody else.

    “Over time, that noise will go away. In the meantime, Michael Sam needs to be supported. It always takes a couple of years from that first moment, that seminal moment, for things to be more accepted in sports.

    “I’m saying that five years from now, it’ll become part of the fabric, a non-issue.’’

    ikaufman@tampatrib.com

    (813) 259-7833

    Twitter: @IKaufmanTBO
     
    #1
  2. Irish Active Member

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    Well, thanks for being honest, Tony.

    The idea you wouldn't draft a player who could help your team because of social implications or because of the "scene" it would cause is baffling to me.
     
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  3. HometownBoy STL sports aficionado

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    So basically Dungy just admitted to having less balls than Fisher?

    Strange way of doing it, but I appreciate your honesty!
     
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  4. 12intheBox Active Member

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    I wonder if Dungy's religious views color that statement. I read his book a few years back - and he is pretty hard core about the bible.

    I give it two weeks and Dungy will regret having said this - history is being written right now and equality - even for sexual orientation - is winning. You don't want to be on the wrong side of that a decade from now any more than you would have wanted to be on the wrong side of segregation.
     
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  5. LetsGoRams Member

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    It shows the level of confidence that Fisher and this organization has in it's leadership. From the coaches, down to the players. I, for one, am glad that the Rams had the balls to draft the guy. I hope he succeeds, and I think this team will give him every opportunity to.
     
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  6. LetsGoRams Member

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    Agreed... I'm surprised this came from Dungy. Doesn't seem like something he would say.
     
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  7. PrometheusFaulk Active Member

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    I think it says more about Dungy than it does about Sam.

    Kinda makes sense though, given what we know about him. A vast majority of players that played for him were pretty soft spoken dudes who we really didn't know too much about - with the notable exception of Sapp.

    I think Tony was a terrific coach and team builder, but I don't think he would ever really thrive in a situation where there was a lot of organized chaos for any reason.

    Fisher seems much better at working with guys with a variety of personalities. Dungy seemed to prefer working with dudes who were more like him.
     
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  8. Thordaddy Binding you with ancient logic

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    I can hear them coming, duck Tony
     
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  9. Rams and Gators Well-Known Member Pit Boss

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    That's his right.

    I'm happy that we have a front office that can make football and moral decisions. Some good people starting with our very own @kdemoff.
     
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  10. Philly5 Member

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    Dungy would have been better off saying nothing.

    That said, given our DE depth I don't think it was worth the distraction for the Rams to take him.
     
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  11. 12intheBox Active Member

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    What distraction? I think it brings more positives than negatives, myself.
     
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  12. DCH This IS my 'oh' face.

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    Well, I find this surprising as I always saw Dungy as a coach who controlled his locker room extremely well. I always thought it would be the less in-control coaches who would shy away from a player who might be a positive producer on the field because they were scared of the locker room controversy. Especially when the player in question has a strong background of being a positive influence on his college team, which was fully aware of his potential controversy.
     
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  13. bluecoconuts Well-Known Member

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    It has been more positive than negative. In fact other than twits like Tony spouting stupid things, I can't think of a negative that has came from drafting him. A day of worrying about Oprah in which Sam pulled the plug quickly?

    Dungy is an idiot, but not shocking given his previous stance on this.
     
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  14. DCH This IS my 'oh' face.

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    What's interesting is that the only real negative press has been press talking about how Sam will generate negative press. The gnashing of teeth over "how will the world respond to the first openly gay NFL player?" has actually been the only widely-visible response over the first openly gay NFL player.
     
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  15. Angry Ram aka Captain RAmerica aka the OG Rammer

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    It's amazing to me, in 2014, a person's private business has to be taken so seriously and waste time in our government. Why same sex couples have to fight so damn much just to be freakin married causes so much damn controversy is beyond me. It's stupid, it's a waste of time, and something so freakin trivial. Let them get married, focus on the real issues.
     
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  16. Philly5 Member

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    Post draft was a circus. If he makes the team each week will be a circus. Players and Coaches on team will get tired of talking about it. If he gets cut it will be scrutinized. With a young team did we need to be a social experiment?

    7th rounder of questionable NFL talent at a position where we are very deep.

    Positive I can think of is we might get more national games. Long shot that he develops into a player. What other positives do you have?
     
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  17. DCH This IS my 'oh' face.

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    Why do you think that each week will be a circus? Post-draft was a circus for about, what, three days? A week? Then it just became the occasional "Huh, Michael Sam is doing his things in OTAs." And then the Arthur Ashe award, which, y'know, it's hard to argue with Sam's speech as indicative of a fantastic young man to have on a team. Other than that, Sam's been heads-down, trying to make the team, and the openly gay aspect of his story has just been that - an aspect of the story.

    Except for those cases where the press decided they needed to prove their stories about him potentially being a distraction by writing more stories about how he could be a distraction.
     
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  18. 12intheBox Active Member

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    Team solidarity, unity, strength through adversity, learning how to deal with a media circus / outside distraction - they are going to come up from time to time, takes attention (and therefore possibly pressure) off of others if they struggle - that kind of thing. I don't think the Rams care much about scrutiny - they seem pretty strong mentally in the front office.
     
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  19. RamBill Well-Known Member

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    Dungy would not have selected Sam
    By Mike Wells | ESPN.com

    http://espn.go.com/blog/st-louis-rams

    INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy said he would not have selected University of Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam if he was still coaching.

    Sam, who is gay, was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the May draft.

    "I wouldn't have taken him," Dungy told the Tampa Tribune. "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."

    Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said on the draft's final day that Indianapolis considered selecting Sam with one of their picks.

    Sam's situation may end up being a distraction inside the locker room and for the franchise, but the Rams deserve credit for being willing to select him.

    Coach Chuck Pagano and punter Pat McAfee were two of the many Colts who earlier this year said they would have no problem with Sam's orientation inside their locker room.

    "I love the environment we've created, the culture we've created," Pagano said earlier this year. "I think we have an outstanding locker room. The Colts never have and never will discriminate based on sexual orientation. We look at the player. We'll evaluate him just like we evaluate everybody else. If he can help our team and help us win football games, he'll be more than welcome."
     
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  20. PrometheusFaulk Active Member

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    Yeah, tail does seem to be wagging the dog on the "outrage over Sam" front.
     
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