Thursday, March 22, 2007
Dungy's gay-marriage comments draw support, criticism
INDIANAPOLIS -- 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.
What was surprising is 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.
Colts president Bill Polian was at NFL meetings in Phoenix on
Thursday and was unavailable for comment.
"Coach Dungy's 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 involved."
Supporters of the proposed ban hailed the endorsement.
"That was sort of 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 Dungy, who received the award because
of his pro-family ethic, not for his views on public policy, would
address the issue.
The resolution's sponsor, Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Monticello,
said Dungy's endorsement made the proposal more credible.
"I certainly 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
Dan Funk, executive director of the Interfaith Coalition on
Non-Discrimination, a network of 21 congregations, invited Dungy to
meet with members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender
"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 anti-gay
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 using a gay slur
when he referred to another cast member. 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 employees."
David Morton, principal of the Indianapolis-based sports
marketing group Sunrise Sports Group, doesn't believe Dungy will
suffer any lasting backlash from his comments.
"Tony's position 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
"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."
Associated Press writers Ken Kusmer and Deanna Martin
contributed to this story.