Former NFL coach Tony Dungy has suffered severe backlash this week after saying that he would not have drafted openly gay player Michael Sam because it would have been a distraction.
Sam, who began training camp this week, had this to say about Dungy’s controversial remarks: ‘Thank God he wasn’t St. Louis Rams’ coach.
‘But I have a great respect for Coach Dungy, and like everyone in America, everyone is entitled to their own opinions.’
Sam says his focus is on making his team and playing football.
‘I’m excited to be back with the guys. Football is fun.’
Sam made history in May when he became the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated days after coming out publicly – several months before the draft.
Dungy, the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl, recently told the Tampa Tribune: ‘I wouldn’t have taken him. 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, currently an analyst for NBC, has since released a statement attempting to clarify his remarks and to try and give them context.
‘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.’