Tony Dungy has recently made comments about how he would not have drafted Michael Sam because of what comes with drafting the first openly gay player in NFL history. Before you get outraged about what Tony Dungy thinks, remember other situations in which famous people have said or done unsavory things and you’ve turned a blind eye. We as people and as fans make excuses or exceptions for our favorite players and teams, but when someone opposes the popular opinion, we lose it and attack them. You may not like what Tony Dungy says about or thinks about gay people and gay football players, but don’t refuse to acknowledge the shortcomings of those in the world of sports whom you do support.
Tony Dungy is not a fan of gay people. Previously, he supported a ban on gay marriage and now he is talking about how he wouldn’t want to deal with everything surrounding Michael Sam. Do I agree with him? No, but this isn’t the place for political discussion. The point is that he has his viewpoints and he feels strongly about this issue, clearly. Michael Sam in the last several months has become something of an American icon, becoming the first openly gay football player to be drafted. I would venture to say that most people are happy for him, but there are undeniably some people that are just homophobic, do not like gay people for whatever reason, etc. who will not support him. Those people will always exist. And it is a good thing for the people to stand up for what they believe in and for sports fans to argue about what they think is right. But, we also must recognize that if we are going to criticize one man for his beliefs and values, we need to take into account the actions of those who are still popular with the collective sports consuming population. Many athletes do less than desirable things, but because they either A) Don’t directly effect their performance, or B) don’t directly effect something that is a popular issue in society at the time, we pretty much don’t care. I’m not trying to diminish homosexuality to just a “popular issue” because clearly it is something so much more than that, but for the sake of this post we can all agree that it is something at the forefront of the American conscious right now. Other athletes and sports figures have done unsavory or downright bad things, but we turn a blind eye to these because we still view these individuals positively. It’s time that we stop ignoring that and criticize everyone fairly, not just a select few who we, as society, consistently don’t like.
Michael Jordan had a gambling problem. He may still have said problem. For all of the money that Michael Jordan has made over his time in the spotlight, you can bet that many millions of it has been gambled away. How many people bring this up ever? It occasionally may be brought up, mostly by snarky fans on rival message boards on /r/nba, but more often than not his basketball prowess is what he’s remembered by (and maybe Space Jam). Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the NFL. Adrian Peterson is one of the most popular players in the NFL. Adrian Peterson is against gay marriage. How often is AD’s views on marriage spoken about? Rarely, if ever (following the original incident, mind you)? Hell, it’s the same topic, in the same sport no less, yet Peterson’s views are ignored and Tony Dungy is crucified. The people love Adrian Peterson so his thoughts on the topic are ignored, just like Michael Jordan’s gambling addiction is often ignored because of the love for him by fans around the world. Tony Dungy is not above your criticism, but neither are Michael Jordan and Adrian Peterson.
I’m not here to talk about whether Tony Dungy is right or wrong, you can decide that for yourself. What I am here to talk about is ending the double standard that says we can openly tear down someone who isn’t widely loved for his actions and/or beliefs and cannot do the same for an athlete or sports figure who is beloved. It’s fine to critique an athlete, I do it all the time when I hear of someone who acts in a way I don’t think is positive or believes something that I find to be outlandish. Again though, we shouldn’t, as fans, reserve criticisms just for players or personalities that we don’t like, because credibility weakens when bias is so apparent. Rip apart Tony Dungy for his views, that’s fine, but don’t forget the comments another star athlete made about a controversial topic just because they put up big numbers.