NBC should finally put an end to Tony Dungy’s amiable right-wing bigotry

NBC should finally put an end to Tony Dungy’s amiable right-wing bigotry
NBC should finally put an end to Tony Dungy’s amiable right-wing bigotry

NOTo the sports league does more than the National Football League to encourage the stereotype of the coach who chews glass and spits swear words. Tony Dungy, however, was more Kenneth Parcell than Bill Parcells – a soft-spoken, crisp-talking ex-defensive back whose winning pedigree and strategic ingenuity earned him a rightful place among the titans of his profession. The fact that Dungy was also a black pioneer made him particularly relevant to Commissioner Roger Goodell’s efforts to “protect the [NFL] shield” from seasonal assaults on its undying legacy of racial and gender inequality. Since transitioning to a high post-retirement role as co-host of NBC’s top-rated NFL TV shows, it’s been up to the 67-year-old to provide uniform assurances of the league’s commitment to fair play. -play. But when it comes to Dungy’s personal views, the coach is happy to talk tough.

Last Friday, Washington DC’s National Mall was the site of the March for Life, a pro-life rally that began in 1974 – a year after the Roe v Wade decision. Interestingly, the rally was designed by left-wing anti-abortionists — first as a one-time protest, then as a protest that would recur every year until Roe v Wade was overthrown. But it has long since been taken over by the right and turned into political football. In 2020, Donald Trump became the first sitting president to attend the event in person. Dungy’s first appearance for the 50th edition of the March, the first since Roe was unseated, was no less remarkable.

Reading from his iPhone, the coach, one of about 20 keynote speakers, delivered a four-minute sermon on the power of prayer and its ability to compel non-believers to appreciate the importance of human life. He made a parable of Damar Hamlin – the 24-year-old Buffalo Bills safety whose heart stopped beating after a routine tackle. The real miracle, Dungy intoned, was not the resurrection medical care Hamlin received on the pitch and in hospital that put him on the right track to a full comeback. No, it was the television cameras that lingered on Buffalo and Cincinnati players kneeling in prayer, the kind of devotion for which the league once threatened to fine its teams. It was that match that was called off, despite its urgent on-pitch and financial impacts, because a life was at stake. “Even people who are not necessarily religious came together and called on God,” said Dungy. “Well, that should encourage us.”

Dungy’s words, although cheered on by tens of thousands of revelers, weren’t met with as much enthusiasm outside the mall – notably his wife, Lauren, who was waiting backstage to follow him on stage and extol the virtues of adoption. Progressive sports pundits have particularly objected to the coach using Hamlin’s near-death experience as a Trojan horse for his views on the termination of unborn fetuses. Dave Zirin, the Nation’s venerable sports columnist, called Dungy’s speech “obscene”. Previously, ESPN founding sports commentator turned NBC politician Keith Olbermann pleaded with his former employer to cut ties with the coach. “He’s using you,” Olbermann tweeted.

This all came after Dungy lit up a firestorm earlier in the week with a non-sports shot. Responding to a Daily Wire tweet about House members in Minnesota pushing a bill that would put menstrual products in boys’ school bathrooms, Dungy cringed, “Some school districts are putting litter boxes in bathrooms. schools for students who identify as cats” – fostering a comprehensive debunked anecdote analysis that has nevertheless become popular with Lauren Boebert, Joe Rogan and other self-proclaimed “freethinkers”. Danny Kanell, a clipboard-holding QB turned sports chat host, was one of the notable NFL members to publicly defend Dungy, calling him “morally upright” while disparaging news reports suggesting otherwise as “hate of Christianity”. But that wasn’t enough to stop the social media blitz from overwhelming the Hall of Fame coach.

Tony Dungy made headlines speaking at the 50th March for Life Rally Friday on the National Mall in Washington DC. Photography: Bonnie Cash/UPI/REX/Shutterstock

After quietly deleting his cat litter shot and expressing his contrition via a lawyer’s statement, Dungy took to Twitter on Saturday to once again apologize and re-establish himself as a universal Christian. And the extra effort might have resonated if the coach hadn’t also included a screenshot of the sorry second note in quotes inside a text message bubble which we can only assume is was also generated by a spokesperson. Unsurprisingly, the clumsy apology gave Dungy’s critics reason to do it again. Worse still, you would never know it was the same coach who was once so masterful at doing things the right way.

As a professional in the 1970s, Dungy humbly accepted a conversion from quarterback to defensive back and became a key contributor to the Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl dynasty in 1978. In the early 80s, after a career from a three-year-old, he made the transition to the Steelers defensive coaching staff, was promoted to coordinator, and was demoted to defensive backs coach after a tough season.

In the mid-90s, he led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and transformed them from a league doormat into a defensive dynamo with his Tampa 2 bend-but-don’t-break defense. When he was ousted from that position in 2002, Dungy reappeared with the Indianapolis Colts and turned this Peyton Manning-led juggernaut into a championship winner – the first led by a black head coach – with a win in 2007. in Super Bowl XL against Chicago. Bears coach Lovie Smith is one of a long line of black generals to come down Dungy’s coaching tree. Ten years ago, the success of Dungy’s bloodline was touted as the first and last reason to hire non-white coaches.

But somewhere along the way, something in Dungy snapped. After his eldest son James took his own life in 2005, the coach went from speaking at conferences for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to raising money for a think tank that opposes same-sex marriage . When Michael Sam, the first gay player in professional football, was drafted by the St Louis Rams in 2014, Dungy said he wouldn’t have wanted the University of Missouri linebacker on his team because of his orientation. sexual activity and the potential distractions it could bring. Mind you, this is the same paragon of gridiron virtue who argued for Michael Vick to be rehired after the Pro Bowl quarterback was jailed by the federal government for running a dogfighting ring; Dungy also said he would host Ray Rice in an NFL locker room after the Pro Bowl defender was banned from the league for knocking out his girlfriend.

All the while, Dungy ranks among the NFL’s worst TV analysts, providing the least information on the most monotonous delivery. Only he could make the final minutes of Jacksonville’s generic comeback against Los Angeles about as exciting as Ben Stein’s roll call in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. (Even the great Al Michaels, clearly shot for announcing too many Thursday night games, couldn’t breathe more life into the show.)

The low energy alone would be reason enough for NBC to at least bench Dungy. But he remains an important part of the network’s NFL coverage and is expected to remain so next season. Sticking to dodgy NFL analysts is routine play for NBC. Senior announcer Mike Tirico has a graveyard of sex allegations from his ESPN days, as does fantastic man Matthew Berry; NBC’s longtime NFL reporter Michele Tafoya made a full shift to anti-wake punditry after stepping back from the sidelines. It’s no shock that Dung – a wealthy and solid member of the jockocracy – espouses conservative Christian ideology, or that he is tempted to draw analogies to sport in his rhetoric. But as long as Dungy has the NFL for a pulpit of bullying, he polarizes no less of a football man than Rush Limbaugh during his brief time at ESPN. Dungy can say what he wants; you won’t read me telling him to stick to the sport. But the NFL might want to think about finding a new human shield. It has lost its integrity.

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