ST. LOUIS (CBS St. Louis) — Former Super Bowl-winning coach and current NBC Sports football analyst Tony Dungy is still trying to stem the wave of criticism he received for his comments regarding Michael Sam.
The controversy started this week after Dungy was quoted in a Tampa Tribune article that he would not have drafted Michael Sam, with many perceiving it was a swipe at the St. Louis Rams’ draft pick’s sexuality.
“I wouldn’t have taken him,’’ the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts coach 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.”
Dungy added: “It’s not going to be totally smooth … things will happen.’’
Speaking to The Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday, Dungy stated that the distraction he was talking about was a reality show that was planned for Sam on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
“We were talking about draft and distractions and it was when the Oprah Winfrey show was talking about doing a reality show on Michael Sam and that’s when the discussion came out about distractions as related to draft choices,” Dungy told Patrick.
Dungy stated he was shocked at the reaction his comments got.
“I was very surprised because I’ve been out here in Oregon for six or seven weeks and I haven’t heard anything about it and haven’t talked to anybody in the media for two months,” he said, adding that “a lot of people are trying to make this about my Christian faith.
“People are always going to have their views, I don’t expect everybody to agree with me, but I don’t think people should expect me to back down on my views about faith,” Dungy said. “But again, this was not a discussion about that. This was a discussion about a particular situation at a particular time and a particular player.”
Dungy explained this wasn’t about any player’s sexuality, only about putting the best team out on the field.
“They can read into whatever they want but I think you make decisions as a football coach to bring the best team you can to your owner and your fans and that’s what I’ve always tried to do,” he said.
Dungy continued: “People are in this league to win. The Rams are expecting some return from their investment on Michael Sam and I hope they get it.”
Dungy also said he’s willing to reach out with Sam to talk about his perceived comments.
“I hadn’t thought about it, but I think it might be a good idea. I’d love to do that and hopefully I get the chance,” Dungy said. “I would want to wish him the best and let him know I have no bitterness or animosity towards him. Even though I don’t agree with his lifestyle, I love him. And I wish him the best, and I’d love to say that to him.”
Dungy concluded the interview by saying the most hurtful comments were the ones claiming he was anti-gay because he’s Christian.
“That being a Christian I’m somehow hateful of gay people or because I believe certain things about marriage that this makes me anti-gay,” Dungy said. “I guess that goes with the territory but that certainly is not what my faith is all about.”
Speaking to ESPN, Sam said he wasn’t concerned about Dungy’s comments to the Tribune.
“Thank God he wasn’t the St. Louis Rams coach,” Sam said while laughing. “I have a lot of respect for Coach Dungy and like everyone in America, everyone is entitled to their own opinions.”
Sam became the first openly gay football player drafted when the Rams took him in the seventh round.