NBC sports analyst Tony Dungy is facing significant backlash from Black America for comments he made about former Las Vegas Raiders head football coach Jon Gruden’s racist emails — comments some say were in defense of Gruden.
In one of the emails, Gruden used a racial trope to describe National Football League Players Association Chief DeMaurice Smith, who is Black. Gruden wrote, “Dumboriss Smith has lips the size of Michelin tires,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
On Oct. 10, both former NFL head coach Dungy and NBC announcer Mike Tirico – who worked with Gruden at ESPN – discussed the controversy surrounding Gruden.
Dungy, who served as a head coach in the NFL for 13 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts, denies defending Gruden, but said that he is a good person who deserves another chance. Tirico agreed.
“We heard Jon Gruden say he addressed this. He gave his side of it. He said that it wasn’t racial, that he was making a comment about DeMaurice Smith, and he basically attacked his character,” Dungy said on Sunday night football, according to The Spin. “I will accept that and just say that it was an immature way to do it. It wasn’t the right way to do it. But it was 10 years ago. And I’m not going to chalk everything up to racism. I think we accept his apology, move forward, and move on with his team.”
Dungy later clarified on Twitter what he says he said on Sunday.
“On [Sunday Night Football] I commented on an email sent by Jon Gruden,” Dungy tweeted on Tuesday. “I did not defend it. I said ‘inappropriate, immature, attack on a man’s character. Wrong!’ I did not attribute it all to racism and said given a single incident 10 yrs ago we should accept his apology and move on.”
In a second tweet, Dungy wrote, “Now more e mails [sic] have come. More inappropriate, immature, wrongful attacks on the character of people from all walks of life. I don’t defend those either and given the apparent pattern of behavior the Raiders did the appropriate thing in terminating Jon Gruden.”
It’s not the first time Dungy has seemingly come to the defense of the NFL amidst controversy. In 2014, Dungy famously said he wouldn’t draft Michael Sam, who was openly gay, because Sam would be a “distraction,” Sports Illustrated reported.
Dungy also stuck up for ex-NFL quarterback Drew Brees, who had said he’d never agree with anyone disrespecting the flag during NFL national anthem protests against police brutality.
“What I’ve seen the NFL do, is that when a player or owner or coach says something, 1-800-TONY-DUNGY and he’s the crisis manager because he’s so good in our community that if Tony says it’s O.K., it’s O.K. Come on, Tony”, sports pundit and former pro football player Shannon Sharpe once said about Dungy.
Twitter raked Dungy over the coals.
“The NFL always brings Tony Dungy out to discuss the social issues because they know he not gonna say anything of significance and is gonna preach about acceptance. ‘Hitler needs our prayers and our help to overcome this misstep. We shouldn’t turn our back on him'” The Anonymous Nobody@el_budget tweeted.
Jemele Hill, host of the “Jemele Hill is Unbothered” podcast, tweeted, “Let’s conveniently overlook that prominent black folks such as Mike Tirico and Tony Dungy caped for Gruden hard on national tv, not to mention the unnamed black player who hugged Gruden in the team meeting and asked how he could help.”
P. Against The World (10/13) @chillin662 noted, “Tony Dungy is the ‘black friend’ for anything dealing with black issues in the NFL (and outside of it) So glad Shannon Sharpe called this out a long time ago so Tony deserves all the flames for defending #JonGruden”.
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