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Only Tony Dungy is turning Michael Sam into a distraction

Tony Dungy thinks Michael Sam is a distraction. Maybe we should stop asking football coaches about distractions.

Dilip Vishwanat

These are things that are distracting to most NFL coaches:

  • light
  • MRSA
  • sound
  • sleep
  • marriage
  • family
  • the existence of the Internet
  • food
  • salary caps
  • "Hard Knocks"
  • Gay people.
The Rams strode into the national spotlight by drafting Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, who will become the NFL’s first openly gay player if he makes Jeff Fisher’s final roster after reporting with St. Louis rookies Tuesday.

"I wouldn’t have taken him,’’ said former Bucs and Colts coach Tony Dungy, now an analyst for NBC. "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.’’

As a former NFL coach, Dungy recognizes the need for everyone in an NFL locker room  to be on the same page, with no distractions -- football-related or not -- to stand in the way of ...

Why sure, handing Keyshawn Johnson $56 million may have SOUNDED risky, but I'm sure that he was known for buckling down, nose to the grindstone, and ...

Keyshawn Johnson has caught just 63 passes so far in his pro career, and the only record he holds is ''most pages per catch.'' As for on-the-field experiences, he doesn't seem to have a clue that there is a universe beyond Keyshawn Johnson. He is aware that racism exists: ''Racism is a volatile issue. . . . I think about it a lot.'' What does he think about it? Nothing much, except that after a few weeks on the Jets, ''I started to wonder whether racism was a player on this team'' when his coaches yelled at him. He thinks that being a celebrity is cool -- ''Being a celebrity is cool'' -- but that ''winning makes everything better.'' One gets the impression that Mr. Johnson would choose being a celebrity rather than being a winner.


Don't like having a gay player in the NFL? Say it. Don't call it a distraction in the same league in which a player and a team are going to court over gay rights, punting, Penn State's child abuse allegations, or some horrible combination of the three. Don't call it a distraction in the same league that is doing its best to push into international audiences for reasons not going much beyond "WE WOULD LIKE MORE MONEY PLEASE."

Actual distractions include:

  • Tony Dungy not just coming out and being a public homophobe -- remember, he's voiced similar sentiments before -- but also obfuscating his point with a veneer of "Michael Sam will get in the way of football!"
  • Media members who ask these kinds of questions knowing exactly how coaches like Dungy will respond.
  • Media members who look to NFL coaches as authorities on the wider world outside of the Cover 2 and the 3-4 defenses, forgetting that becoming an NFL coach means that you have traded your life and your family to pilot a giant ship we call "an NFL franchise." NFL coaches are not role models. Your mom is a role model. They are NFL coaches.
  • Media outlets that will run the worst, most repulsively homophobic responses/tweets to these articles as if it's news that some people are homophobic and will say so on the Internet.
Actual distractions do not include:
  • Michael Sam.