Despite taking place only a few days apart, there appeared to be little in common between the Ivan Provorov Pride jersey fiasco and Tony Dungy’s venture into Twitter hot takes about furries, outside of the public anti-LGBTQ stance from both figures.
But Dungy and Provorov have both suddenly been united by their transformation into heroic figures for a certain class of reactionary sports pundits, analysts and fans. These groups are all too eager to use the two as their latest “proof” that the LGBTQ community is using them to push some agenda down everybody’s throats.
That’s right. The “gay agenda” is back and this time it’s coming for your mediocre defensemen and your monotone studio analysts!
It’s a talking point we’ve heard in the past and seems to constantly be litigated as if it were an anti-LGBTQ Mad Lib where each talking head just has to fill in a new “public figure who said something homophobic” blank every week.
The sports media figures who spread this idea around are so familiar, you’ve no doubt already guessed who a few of them are. Here are a few representative samples:
The backlash against Tony Dungy is well-orchestrated and not remotely organic. The motive is to outlaw a biblical worldview. The anti-God agenda is so strong and obvious. I'm so sick of alleged Christians sitting silent while someone like Tony has his character assassinated.— Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) January 20, 2023
The usual woke suspects in sports media are trying to cancel Tony Dungy, demanding that he be fired for now sharing their politics. https://t.co/wwZ553XSrl— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) January 20, 2023
In trying to cancel @TonyDungy are y’all saying Christians, Muslims & Jews who hold to the historic, orthodox beliefs of their faith are no longer welcome in mainstream society? If we can tolerate working with & respecting those w/different beliefs, then u must tolerate us!— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) January 21, 2023
Naturally, defending Dungy falls perfectly in line with Whitlock, Broussard and Travis’s daily “please notice me” competition to see who can post the tweet that brutally takes down the woke mob hardest of all. In their minds, despite being a threat to America as we know it, said mob is still fragile enough to be unable to withstand an attack of less than 280 characters.
Meanwhile, Fox News, The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal have all published editorials celebrating Provorov for “taking a stand based on his religious convictions” and “[revealing] the totalitarian bent of the woke mind and how it is infecting hockey culture,” while accusing his critics of “tolerating only those who share their beliefs and excluding those who do not.”
If these ideas sound repetitive, that’s because they’re meant to be. The athletes’ names change but the arguments stay the same. These writers are not trying to advance an intellectual dispute, they’re bludgeoning us with the same talking points over and over again until we just give up. It’s debate via rhetorical steel chair to the head.
Furthermore, no one is arguing that Dungy and Provorov are forbidden from making statements based on their religious convictions. That’s their right. But the freedom to express their religious beliefs doesn’t automatically shield them from criticism, and this fact seems to upset their advocates more than anything else.
It’s telling that as soon as our community pushed back against Dungy and Provorov, their defenders immediately fell back on the tired “outlaw a biblical worldview” and “totalitarian bent of the woke mind” tropes. Defending our inclusion in the sports world is viewed as an attack on their entire belief system. Which is the tip-off that this isn’t about morality, it’s about power.
Voices like Whitlock and Broussard seem to want Dungy and Provorov to have the power to attack our community with impunity. And when it turns out that their actions actually have consequences, they try to use religion as an immunity idol. Which is interesting as I seem to recall The Bible having a thing or two to say about idols.
LGBTQ fans are not trying to spread an anti-God agenda or infect your sport’s culture with wokeness or outlaw a biblical worldview. Honest, we’re not. Speaking for myself, as long as there’s nothing in the Bible that forced the Cubs to trade Anthony Rizzo, we’re cool.
Instead, what we want is simple. As LGBTQ sports fans, we wish to be able to enjoy one of our favorite things in the world without feeling like we’re being attacked for who we are.
How do you think gay, lesbian or transgender Philadelphia Flyers fans feel attempting to cheer for a team where one of the players was so offended by the concept of supporting their community that he couldn’t even wear a rainbow sweater with the rest of his teammates during one solitary warm-up skate?
What’s it like to be an LGBTQ Indianapolis Colts fan, knowing that the head coach who brought you the greatest sports moment of your lifetime has spent his entire life publicly condemning you and your community?
Personally, I went through some of these feelings when the Cubs traded for Daniel Murphy in 2018 and I can tell you: it’s awful. No matter how many mental gymnastics you try to go through to continue cheering on your favorite team, you can never fully shake the sense that someone on their roster hates you and your community.
In every one of these instances, the only agenda we’re pushing for is for the ability to enjoy sports without that sense of self-loathing weighing us down. And if you interpret our basic human need to belong as an attack on your faith, that says everything we need to know your religious beliefs.
This request should strike everyone as being eminently reasonable. But if reason were as profitable as outrage, then Whitlock, Broussard, and Travis would have to finally get a new bit.