Indianapolis Colts Coach Tony Dungy, 53, has announced his retirement from pro football. Dungy led the Colts to a Super Bowl win in 2006 and his teams have had a record six consecutive seasons with 12 or more wins. Being the first black coach to win a Super Bowl and having only one losing season as a head coach with the Colts and Tampa Bay, Dungy looks like a lock to be in the Hall of Fame. He will be replaced by Colts quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell.
But for gay NFL fans, Dungy will be more remembered for his decision in 2007 to raise money for the virulently antigay Indiana Family Institute. Dungy spoke at the group's dinner that year and raised $150,000, a record amount of money.
The IFI is opposed to gay marriage and Dungy said he supported that decision. "We're not trying to downgrade anyone else. But we're trying to promote the family -- family values the Lord's way," Dungy said.
Dungy's decision to endorse the political agenda of the IFI drew criticism in the gay community and media, but got little attention in the mainstream media. I suspect that was due to Dungy's reputation as being one of the "good guys" in the NFL. In late 2007, HBO's Bob Costas did finally pin down Dungy on his stance.
Costas: What if you had a player who was openly gay? Would that be alright with you?
Dungy: I'm sure I would talk to him about my views on it, what I think the Bible says about it. I would hope that I would give him the same respect as every other player, treat him exactly the same way I treat the other 52 guys, and show him the kind of love that I think the Bible says we are to show everyone.
Costas: And if he's a good football player, he's on the Colts.
Dungy: He would be, yes.
As I wrote then, Dungy has always struck me as a decent man, but he has a blind spot on the gay issue and I can't respect him for that; too many people have used their religious beliefs to discriminate against gays and don't tell me I have to accept it. I don't see him as being a hater, but as we saw in the Prop. 8 debate in California, even the "nicest" religious people see no problem with voting against gay rights.
When I attended the Colts-Chargers game in San Diego last week as a guest of the team, Dave Kopay and I were part of the police escort to the stadium, my Toyota Avalon trailing two team buses. As he exited the team's hotel en route to the bus, Dungy made eye contact with me sitting in my car waiting for the caravan to roll. He smiled and gave a hearty hello, and I wished the Colts well. I was curious what he would have thought had he seen the rainbow sticker on the back of my car and knew it contained two gay men and two Colts fans ready to cheer their lungs out for his team. I would hope it would have made no difference, but I am not sure.