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Tony Dungy Can’t Decide How He Feels About Michael Sam

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Today former NFL coach/current NFL analyst Tony Dungy had to issue a clarifying statement after an earlier quote he gave to the Tampa Tribune regarding the draft status of Michael Sam. Here’s what he said several weeks ago:

“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 didn’t clarify what those “things” were at the time, but we have a feeling that old NFL guys coming out of the woodwork to give their opinions would be one of them.

Today he issued a clarification that didn’t really clear things up at all.

Here’s the full statement:

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.

While Dungy is right to say that the Oprah show probably wouldn’t have been a great idea, his statement about the media distractions sits at odds with his position on Michael Vick; it’s also a little funny that Dungy’s own comments confirmed his fears about said “distractions.”

Keith Olbermman (who is apparently relevant again) spun it as “Tony Dungy just admitted that Tony Dungy wouldn’t be a skilled enough coach to deal with the distraction of doing the right thing.”

The question: why did anyone ask him in the first place?

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