NBC analyst Tony Dungy: Michael Sam deserves to play in the NFL
"I wouldn't have taken him," the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts coach told the Tampa 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."
After several outlets reported on the comments, the NBC analyst wants to clarify what he meant when he discussed the NFL's drafting of Sam, the league's first openly gay player, to the St. Louis Rams.
"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," Dungy says in a statement. The show has since been put on hold.
He continues, "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."
Ultimately, Dungy says, playing in the NFL should be based on merit and players should be selected in a way 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," he says.
Dungy continues, "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."