Dungy issues statement on Michael Sam comments
After a day of national reaction to comments that he would not draft Rams rookie Michael Sam, former Bucs coach Tony Dungy issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon in an attempt to clarify his comments.
In a story published Sunday morning in the Tampa Tribune, Dungy said as to whether he would draft Sam, who is openly gay: "I wouldn’t have taken him. 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."
Dungy's statement does little to change the context of his quote, other than to call into question when the statement was made -- at least two months ago, according to his timeline. Here is the statement in full, as published at ProFootballTalk.com.
"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 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.
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.
My sincere hope is that we will be able to focus on his play and not on his sexual orientation."
Sam's proposed show with Winfrey's network was canceled on May 16, more than two months ago. Former Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks, who played under Dungy and is soon to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was asked about Dungy's comments on Tuesday morning and said he hadn't spoken with the coach, but had this to say:
"I just generally feel that he’s probably saying what 31 other teams were probably thinking in that regard," Brooks said. "They didn’t draft him, for whatever reason. He was just saying, if he were a head coach, this is how he would have approached the situation, or approached the player’s situation."