You Don’t Understand!
By Anthony McClean, Editor – in – Chief Emeritus
“I say what you think, but are afraid to say in public.”
– Comedian Bernie Mac.
NEW HAVEN, CT (BASN/BASN NEWSROOM) — When the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito affair came to light last season, many folks behind closed doors within the NFL were uncomfortable about implications that these “fourth wall” revelations would mean regarding the climate of the locker room.
Even though there have been — and probably still are — several homosexual players within the locker rooms in pro and college sports, there still remains a very uneasy and immature attitude regarding the issue.
In their bloodlust to control the spin on every aspect of the game, Commissioner Roger Goodell and his PR cronies did anything and everything to diffuse the situation. Months later, when Missouri All-American linebacker Michael Sam announced that he was gay prior to the NFL Combine, the league’s spin would make a 360-degree turn. In fact, NFLPA president DeMaurice Smith would declare that any team official who anonymously downgraded Sam was “gutless”.
Much like when the NBA’s Jason Collins made public his sexual orientation just over a year ago, Sam was applauded for coming out. From President Obama to others in the LGBT community, Sam was depicted by many as a pioneer and or hero just before he was drafted by the Rams (7th round, 249th overall) in May. Earlier this month, Sam was given the Arthur Ashe Courage Award recipient at the 2014 ESPY’s.
Despite the league’s efforts to paint an open acceptance on the subject, there was some opposition regarding Sam, his orientation, and his possible draft and or playing status. Much of it (whether the NFL wanted to admit it or not) came on the heels of the Martin/Incognito affair and the scrutiny surrounding it.
However, when former NFL coach and current NBC analyst Tony Dungy chimed in on the subject, you saw just how narrow-minded and hypocritical the mainstream media can be.
In an interview with the Tampa Tribune — in which the quotes were made months ago, but the story wasn’t released until this week — Dungy stated that if he was still coaching, he wouldn’t have drafted Sam. “I wouldn’t have taken him,” Dungy said to the 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.”
It didn’t take long for the media to take Dungy to task for his “controversial” and “hypocritical” statement.
Many went after him because of his public religious background and his role in the Michael Vick affair following the whole dogfighting issue. They also questioned how Dungy could have that kind of viewpoint following his own racial struggles to get his first NFL head coaching job. Some even went so far as to evoke Sam’s plight to be similar to the signing of Jackie Robinson by the then Brooklyn Dodgers back in the 1940′s.
We heard these same analogies when the Collins issue was made public as well. However, I want to deal with the Dungy issue.
Several times since Sam came out, I stated on our talk show “The Batchelor Pad” that despite the fact he was the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, I thought that he wouldn’t get drafted because of the very distractions that Coach Dungy stated. In fact, the very same media folks that are currently trying to tear Dungy a new one reiterated those very same sentiments as well.
The fact that the Tribune article was held until the opening of training camps this week leaves me with a very “something is rotten in the state of Denmark” feeling as well. The manipulation of the timing of Dungy’s quotes — which were made just after Sam being drafted — should be a huge red flag to those who are being quick to judge the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer coach as well.
When one takes a look at the big picture of this contrived “controversy”, I refer to the above quote from the late King of Comedy. Despite what many may think of Dungy’s religious stance, his response to the question was all about football. Somehow that’s the real thing that has been lost on many in regards to Sam. Many in the mainstream media still can’t handle a strong black man with a strong opinion when asked to share it.
In fact, I wonder aloud what the media’s reaction would have been if a Tim Tebow or a Kurt Warner had stated the same viewpoint as Coach Dungy.
Whether it’s Sam, Collins, or any other athlete’s sexual orientation, at the end of the day it’s really none of our damn business. Eventually, the former Missouri standout is going to be remembered more for whether he can play on the field as opposed to who he’s sharing his bed with. We’ve already seen over the last few months how this issue and one’s opinion on it can be thrust upon the public for hidden agendas.
While the NFL tries to play the politically correct game, privately many officials and coaches are in lockstep with Dungy’s beliefs.
Maybe I’m being naïve, but in my heart, I feel that while there will always be scrutiny for the gay athlete in sports, much of the negative won’t come from within the locker room. The Martin/Incognito affair notwithstanding, most of the scorn I think will come from a mainstream media corps that’s looking for another gotcha moment or obnoxious fans in the stands with the liquid courage of a drunken coward.
Needless to say, the entire football and sports world will be watching.