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Tony Dungy’s tone-deaf defense of Jon Gruden keeps looking worse

Dungy blinded defended Gruden before his homophobic emails were uncovered.

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Tony Dungy doesn’t need to be talking about Jon Gruden, thank you very much.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tony Dungy went on national television and said we should move on from Jon Gruden’s heinous emails.

Those words keep looking worse.

On NBC’s “Football Night in America,” Dungy dismissed Gruden’s racially insulting email about NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith as a singular lapse in judgment. “I’m not gonna chalk everything up to racism,” Dungy said. “I think we accept his apology, move forward and move on just like he did with this team.”

Mike Tirico, who worked with Gruden on “Monday Night Football,” also defended his friend, saying he never saw anything “that would say Jon is racist in any way.” While that may be true, it doesn’t mean Gruden is incapable of using racial stereotypes in private.

We know he freely threw around disgusting anti-gay slurs, thanks to emails uncovered by the New York Times, despite publicly supporting Carl Nassib earlier this year.

When Dungy jumped to Gruden’s defense Sunday night, the latest batch of homophobic and misogynistic emails weren’t yet publicized. But it was apparent more could come: Gruden even acknowledged the NFL was investigating the matter.

Given that Gruden called commissioner Roger Goodell a “faggot,” it isn’t surprising some of those hateful missives were published in the New York Times.

Dungy attempted to play clean up Tuesday, tweeting he believes the “Raiders did the appropriate thing in terminating Jon Gruden.”

Still, Dungy’s tweets are littered with caveats. The Hall of Fame coach referred to Gruden’s emails as an “apparent pattern of behavior” and said he would forgive him if he showed “TRUE remorse.”

That’s more than Dungy has shown for his absurd remarks about Michael Sam. Dungy said he wouldn’t have drafted the out NFL prospect, because Sam’s presence would be a distraction. That renowned commentary earned Dungy our Outsports “Asshole of the Year” honor.

When Dungy was asked about his comments, he said he gave an “honest answer.

Here’s another honest answer: Dungy should refrain from injecting himself into this story. As it turns out, it was the straight head coach, and not the gay player, who was a distraction. Yet, Dungy excused Gruden’s hateful messages.

If only he would’ve granted Sam the same benefit of the doubt for being his true self.

Gruden’s resignation shows the NFL doesn’t tolerate anti-gay bigotry in 2021. But his messages illustrate the atavistic clubby culture that still exists around the league. Many of the emails were sent to then-Washington president Bruce Allen, who worked with Gruden in Tampa Bay from 2004-08. Allen is the son of legendary NFL coach George Allen, while Gruden’s father coached at Notre Dame.

Dungy, it’s worth noting, coached the Buccaneers from 1996-01. Gruden replaced him, using his elite defense to a Super Bowl title.

That’s where Dungy should keep his commentary: defense. Blindly defending a buddy who calls people “faggots” is not what we need to hear.