Tony Dungy is a
deeply religious man who puts his faith first in his
life, even above family and football. So his support of a
proposed gay-marriage ban likely surprised few.
surprising is that the Indianapolis Colts' quiet coach
shared his position publicly, sparking discussion
about the impact of the Super Bowl winner's comments.
Dungy caused a
stir Tuesday when he accepted the "Friend of Family"
award from the conservative Indiana Family Institute.
The coach told
the audience he supported the group's efforts to amend the
Indiana constitution to define marriage as between one man
and one woman.
"I appreciate the
stance they're taking, and I embrace that stance,"
Dungy told the crowd of about 700 people.
Dungy said his
comments should not be considered gay-bashing.
"We're not trying
to downgrade anyone else. But we're trying to promote
the family--family values the Lord's way," Dungy said.
Bill Polian was at National Football League meetings
in Phoenix on Thursday and was unavailable for comment.
feelings on the importance of marriage and family are
well-known to the overwhelming majority of American sports
fans," said Myra Borshoff Cook, a spokeswoman for
Colts owner Jim Irsay. "He, of course, is free to
speak to any group he wishes. The club does not take
positions in political issues in which it is not directly
Supporters of the
proposed ban hailed the endorsement.
"That was a
double for us," said Curt Smith, president of the
institute, which is associated with but independent of James
Dobson's Focus on the Family group.
Smith said he was
unaware that Dungy, who received the award because
of his pro-family ethic and not for his views on public
policy, would address the issue.
sponsor, state senator Brandt Hershman, a
Republican from Monticello, said Dungy's endorsement made
the proposal more credible.
appreciate him being able to step forward and speak out
strongly in his beliefs," Hershman said. "I don't think that
anybody should criticize him for exercising his First
Amendment right to speak as a private citizen in
support of some deeply held beliefs."
Some in the gay
community disagreed. Bil Browning, who runs bilerico.com,
a blog that focuses on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and
transgender issues, wrote: "When the head coach
publicly states that part of the Colts' fan base
should be second-class citizens, you can't expect those same
fans to support the team."
executive director of the Interfaith Coalition on
Non-Discrimination, a network of 21 congregations, invited
Dungy to meet with LGBT people.
"All types of
families from across Indiana are Colts fans," he said.
"We would like coach Dungy to meet with our families so he
can better understand the negative impact (the
resolution) will have on countless Hoosier families."
Dungy is not the
first public figure to draw fire for antigay comments.
Former NBA star Tim Hardaway apologized twice after
responding to a question about his reaction to a gay
teammate by saying "I hate gay people." Actor Isaiah
Washington of the hit television show Grey's Anatomy
sought counseling after calling another cast member a
"faggot." Author-columnist Ann Coulter was chastised
for repeating the slur when referring to Democratic
presidential candidate John Edwards during a speech to a
The NFL sought to
distance itself from the matter.
"Coach Dungy is
speaking for himself and expressing his views, which
he is fully entitled to do," league officials said in a
statement. "No doubt there are people in our league
that have a different view. We respect the right of
employees to have and express their views and don't
regulate the political or religious views of team or league
principal of the Indianapolis-based sports marketing group
Sunrise Sports Group, doesn't believe Dungy will suffer any
lasting backlash from his comments.
on this or any other political issue should be as one
person's opinion and one person's opinion only," Morton
said. "It's not as Tony Dungy, head coach of the
Indianapolis Colts. It's not the Indianapolis Colts,
because I doubt if he asked Bill Polian or [Colts
owner] Jim Irsay or anyone else what they thought.
"He's never tried
to take advantage of his position on the pulpit,"
Morton said. "He spoke from the heart, and honestly, and
I don't think you can ask anyone to do anything else."
(Michael Marot, AP)