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NBC analyst, and former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Tony Dungy, said he would not have drafted Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be taken in the NFL draft.
The St. Louis Rams selected Sam in the seventh round of the NFL draft last May, something Dungy says he would not have done. Dungy, who was the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl, said he "wouldn't have taken" Sam because “things will happen," The Tampa Bay Tribune reports.
It is somewhat surprising to hear this from Dungy, who often serves as the NFL’s moral conscience on NBC’s Football Night in America. Dungy is known as being very conservative, as he once criticized Jets head coach, Rex Ryan, for cursing too much on HBO’s show Hard Knocks.
Sam was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year his final season at Missouri, and was projected to go in the third or fourth round in the draft, but dropped to the seventh. Some speculate Sam’s draft stock dropped because of his decision to announce to the public that he was gay three months before the draft. However, his poor performance at the NFL combine, and lack of ideal size for his position, were also key factors in him being taken in the last round of the draft.
While people may condemn Dungy as a bigot, he was speaking honestly. Dungy was speaking as a former coach, and the last thing coaches want are distractions. Sam is a role model and inspiration to others, but he could also be a source of distraction for the Rams. Anytime a player receives a lot of attention for something they do off the field, coaches have to be a little concerned.
The last thing a coach wants is a scandal surrounding his team. I believe that is what Dungy meant when he said “things will happen.” All it would take is one remark, one inappropriate gesture or one intolerant teammate, and the Rams could have a national scandal on their hands.
Last years the Miami Dolphins’ season was overshadowed by the story that one of their players, Richie Incognito, was bullying his teammate, Jonathan Martin. The saga dragged out for weeks, and the Dolphins’ coaching staff received criticism for not being aware of the situation. If there was an incident involving Sam and a teammate, the backlash could be potentially unprecedented.
It seems that Dungy was saying that it was not worth risking a scandal to take an undersized defensive tackle in the seventh round. Sam may turn out to be a solid NFL player, but his performance on the field will not make or break the Rams this season. If something does happen, as Dungy believes, the Rams organization could be in the news for all the wrong reasons. As for now, Dungy will be receiving all the bad press. Yahoo! touched on the reality of black-balling controversial players in the NFL.
image courtesy of INFphoto.com