Former NFL coach Tony Dungy has issued a statement clarifying his remark about drafting Michael Sam to emphasize his concern was for a planned reality show featuring the player, not the player's sexual orientation.
Dungy had been quoted as saying in a report that he would not have drafted Sam because it would have been too difficult, a distraction.
The former coach said he read that report on July 21 and felt the need to clarify. He said his concern with drafting the openly gay Sam, who was picked up by St. Louis, had to do with the media circus surrounding an announcement of a reality show about Sam and not Sam as a person or a player.
At the time Dungy was interviewed for the report, Oprah Winfrey's network was planning a reality show about Sam's first season. Those plans have since been scrapped.
In his statement on July 22, Dungy said, "“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.”
He also said he does "not believe Michael's sexual orientation will be a distraction to his teammates or his organization.”
Dungy said he was not asked whether Sam deserves a chance to play in the NFL and said if he had been asked he would have said, "He absolutely does."
He said he also was not asked whether he would have a problem with having Sam on a team. If he had been asked that, he would have said, "I would not."
Here is Dungy's 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 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.