Tony Dungy’s tweet, speech shows sport’s worst regression

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It was admirable when Tony Dungy was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016, as he followed sideline luminaries Bill Parcells, John Madden, Hank Stram, George Allen and Marv Levy as coaches so honored before him in the 2000s.

It was anything but when Dungy accepted an invitation to speak Friday at the March for Life on the National Mall. For at the nation’s largest annual gathering Abortion enemies, he has followed on his podium, over the years, Senator Jesse Helms, anti-abortion extremist Randall Terry and Donald Trump, among others.

To be sure, Helms was, when he retired from office in 2001, “this country’s last unapologetically racist white politician,” like prominent Washington Post political columnist David S. Broder. wrote. Terry founded the anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue, which distributed a ‘wanted’ poster for an abortion doctor in Florida, David Gunn, at a rally the summer before Gunn’s assassination in 1993, was shot three times in the back outside his Florida clinic. And Trump did what anti-abortion Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush before him feared to do because of the extremist undercurrents of the event: He spoke live at the annual walk.

Still, Dungy forged ahead with his address, using his athletic stardom coupled with his religiosity as deodorant for a theme of intolerance.

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This came days after a tweet from Dungy for which he was rightfully and strongly denounced, shamed to apologize and delete his words. It had amplified to Dungy’s nearly one million followers a dangerous deception by reactionaries about how long schools are supposed to accommodate differences in student identities – and whether they need to be stopped. The tried-and-true fabrication was ultimately aimed at disobeying the needs of LGBTQ children, and even those of children of color who need the opportunity to explore their stories and have them learned by others. It was a slap in the face to Tampa Bay linebacker Carl Nassib, who the league has celebrated ever since. he revealed that he is gaybecoming the first active NFL player to do so.

A person from NBC told me on Monday that Dungy apologized to the “Football Night in America” ​​team, for which he is a face. And the network recalled in a memo to staff that “…NBC Sports does not support or condone the views expressed in the tweet and we have made that clear to Tony. Our company has long and proudly supported LGBTQ+ rights and works hard to ensure that all of our employees are seen, acknowledged, recognized and respected.

Whether the league did the same – or reacted the way it did to Colin Kaepernick’s protest, when it fines decreed for any team with a player on the pitch who hasn’t stood for the national anthem – I don’t know. The league did not respond to my email asking for clarification on their situation with Dungy’s associations.

Dungy posted his regrets on Saturday before appearing on NBC’s playoff broadcast: “Last week I posted a tweet which I then deleted. I issued an apology but not everyone saw it. So I am reposting my apologies here. As a Christian, I want to be a force of love for all. A healing and reconciling force – no animosity.

He tweeted his original mea culpa on Wednesday. He said: “I saw a tweet [Tuesday] and I answered wrong. As a Christian, I should speak lovingly and in a caring and helpful way. I failed to do so and I am deeply sorry.

I’m not sure what “answering it the wrong way” means. But that didn’t stop Dungy from coming to terms with his moment of standing in front of anti-abortionists on a podium frequented by white supremacists and bigots. And from there, he even found the nerve to invoke the recent story of Damar Hamlin, the recovering Buffalo Bills player after suffering cardiac arrest during a gameas a sort of justification for repealing a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy.

“People wanted to see that life saved,” Dungy told the March for Life herd, referring to Hamlin. “These are people who are not necessarily religious; they got together and called on God. Well, that should encourage us because that’s exactly why we’re here. Because every day in this country, innocent lives are at stake. The only difference is that they do not belong to a famous athlete and they are not seen on national television.

I know there are aspiring black head coaches in the NFL who would prefer Dungy to use that energy and gravity to support their lawsuit for discrimination against league hiring practices, possibly helping the next Black Hall of Fame coach. But aside from words, he hasn’t joined their cause in action as he fights against abortion and LGBTQ people.

I do not intend to criticize religiosity, although Dungy has used his to criticize non-Christian religions and people his version of Christianity rejects. He is an evangelical Christian who openly opposed not only abortion, but also gay marriage, against which he campaigned in Indiana when he coached the Colts, and against gay people in general, including those struggling as professional athletes. He said sadly he wouldn’t have Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player, in his locker room.

All of this is another reminder that sport can be, has been, and often continues to be an agent for the opposite of which it is celebrated: regression, not progress. Dungy is not at the forefront of social change in the sports world, regardless of his historic achievement as the first black head coach lead a team to a Super Bowl championship.

In fact, in March, he should stay on the mark as a speaker at an all-male conference called Men’s Advance 2023. It is led by evangelical Christian pastor Andrew Wommack, who disputed two years ago that “homosexuality is three times worse than smoking. We should put a label on their forehead: “It may be dangerous to your health. ”

Dungy should know that this appearance could be dangerous for his career.

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