Tony Dungy is homophobe of the week.
He’s spending time in the national media’s barrel because, when asked about the St. Louis Rams’ Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player, he said he would not have drafted him if he were still an NFL head coach.
Dungy was a wildly successful and universally admired player and coach in the NFL for more than 30 years and is now an analyst on NBC’s Football Night in America, the No. 1-rated TV show in the United States. He gave an honest answer and said Sam would be a distraction and that, “It’s not going to be totally smooth … things will happen.”
He teed himself up for the self-righteous national media and they knocked him out of the park.
But Dungy knows things very few in the media know.
He knows what it’s like to be in an NFL locker room, not as an interloper, but as a member of the team. And here’s something else he knows that all but a microscopic sliver of media critics don’t: Dungy knows what it’s like to be black. He knows that gay black men have it much tougher than gay white men.
Everybody knows two-thirds of players in an NFL locker room are black.
The white media stars who got on their high horses and lectured Dungy on his hypocritical lack of tolerance could have done a 10-second Google search and found plenty of references to the unique hardships endured by gay black men.
They could have found this quote from gay CNN anchor Don Lemon: “It’s quite different for an African-American male. It’s about the worst thing you can be in black culture. You’re taught you have to be a man; you have to be masculine. In the black community they think you can pray the gay away.”
They might have found the study done by Rutgers journalism professor Michael LaSala last year for the Journal of GLBT Studies that found being a gay black man presents unique challenges. One challenge, according to LaSala is “The rigid expectations of exaggerated masculinity” held by many in the black community.
LaSala said, it was a common theme among relatives of gay black men that, “They carry a special stigma that some straight black males may find particularly disturbing. The world already sees you as less than others. By being gay, you’re further hurting the image of African-American men.”
Dungy was in the NFL for more than 30 years. He’s been black all his life. Could it be that he knows that, despite what black players say in front of the cameras, many, if not most of them, might not be as tolerant of gay black men as the mostly white media would like to think they are?
If acceptance of gay men is already a problem among African-Americans, would it be surprising to find even less tolerance in the typical hyper-masculine NFL locker room?
Should it be shocking Dungy believes, “things will happen,” and those things would make it less likely he could do what he’s paid millions of dollars to do – win a championship?
Of course, Dungy could never say it out loud.
Do you know why?
The mostly white, holier-than-thou, national media wouldn’t tolerate it for a second.
• The Steelers go into training camp coming off a 6-2 finish last season and, based on their schedule in the first half, they should be at least that good in their next eight games. They play the Browns, Buccaneers and Texans at home and the Ravens, Panthers, Jaguars and Browns on the road in the first seven weeks. They will be favored in five of those games. Game 8 is against the Colts at home, a tough one but very winnable.
If they aren’t at least 5-3 at the halfway point, they’ll have a tough time winning 10 games because the second-half schedule is much harder than the first half and much tougher than the last half of 2013. They have the Saints, Chiefs, Falcons and the Bengals (twice) in the last five weeks.
It says here they will go 10-6.
• Ben Roethlisberger was told not to expect a contract extension this year. He has two years left on the eight-year, $108 million contract he signed before the 2008 season.
Roethlisberger should be forever grateful to the Steelers for not cutting him after his second sexual assault accusation in 2010. Prior to that, he stupidly injured himself while riding a motorcycle without a helmet, was seen riding the motorcycle without a helmet again after recovering from surgery to reconstruct his face and acquired a reputation around town as one of the biggest jerks in Pittsburgh sports history. His teammates despised him.
The fact he’s still a Steeler is proof of two things. He is a great player and there is no longer any such thing as “The Steeler Way.”
John Steigerwald writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.