Tony Dungy wanted to set the record straight about what some people perceived to be inflammatory comments he made Tuesday regarding Michael Sam of the St. Louis Rams.
Dungy told the Tampa Tribune that he would not have drafted Sam, who would be the NFL's first openly gay player if he makes the Rams' 53-man roster, because of the distractions that might come with it.
"I wouldn't have taken him," Dungy told the Tribune. "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."
Dungy said he gave those quotes upon learning that Sam was going to be doing a reality show on Oprah Winfrey's network, though the project has since been shelved.
He issued the following statement on Tuesday that he hopes will clear up what he said and the context behind it:
"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," Dungy revealed.
"I was asked whether I would have drafted Michael Sam and I answered that I 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. My sincere hope is that we will be able to focus on his play and not on his sexual orientation."
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