When former Colts Head Coach, Tony Dungy, told the Tampa Bay Times he would not have drafted the NFL’s first openly gay player, seventh-round draft pick, Michael Sam, it wasn’t exactly breaking news.
After all, Dungy has never been shy in expressing his Christianity, and his stance on faith, and especially family, have never been in question.
But when Dungy gave his reasons as to why he would not draft Sam, his answer was not only surprising, but even more disappointing to read.
“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.”
That quote seems a bit odd coming from the mouth of an author whose books are entitled Quiet Strength and Uncommon. And especially coming from a man who dealt with racial tensions in the NFL and penned the forward to a book promoting the advancement of racial equality in the league.
Dungy has always projected himself, and been heralded as, a strong individual that doesn’t back down; one that stands up to adversity and plows through it with a strong will and unwavering determination. The titles of his books, and his actions on-and-off the field, seemed to affirm this.
But the fact that he admits he “wouldn’t want to deal with all of it,” seems to go against everything we thought he was.
Think about that quote for a second. Here’s Tony Dungy, the fearless leader, admitting he would not draft an openly gay player. Not because it’s against his faith, but because he wouldn’t want to be the guy to deal with the hassle of the media circus and possible tension that would come with doing so.
When Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization in 1945, he was prepared to deal with all of it.
In 1936, when Hitler was busy depicting African-American athletes as inferior to the aryan race in preparation for the 1936 Olympics, American Jesse Owens was training to prove him wrong. Owens certainly knew the situation he would be in upon landing in Nazi Germany, but he was prepared, and did, deal with it.
That is what uncommon leaders with quiet strength do: they go against the grain, make bold decisions, and are ready and willing to take on all of the challenges and negativity that goes with their decision.
That’s what separates the good from the memorable: their willingness to stand up against adversity and face it head on.
That’s the kind of man most people assumed Tony Dungy to be.
Which is why it was so disappointing to hear Dungy’s quote today. In Indianapolis, and around the NFL for the most part, he was viewed in the pantheon of heroic leaders, but today, we found out he is just another great coach.
Not a groundbreaker; not a history maker; just a good football coach.
And it’s a little heartbreaking.