Tony Dungy ‘wouldn’t want to deal with’ drafting Michael Sam

Former NFL coach Tony Dungy has always been considered something of a pioneer in football circles, both for his uncommonly cool temperament on the sidelines and, more importantly, his status as the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl, with the 2006-07 Indianapolis Colts.

When it comes to Michael Sam’s opportunity to become the first openly gay player to play in the NFL, however, Dungy seems less enthusiastic about the prospect of Sam spearheading a movement that could bring more acceptance to the game.

In an interview with the Tampa Tribune, Dungy, who coached the Tampa Bay Bucs for six years before spending seven seasons in Indianapolis, said he wouldn’t have taken the Missouri defensive end Sam had he been running the St. Louis Rams, who selected Sam in the seventh round of May’s NFL Draft.

"I wouldn’t have taken him," said Dungy, now an NFL analyst for NBC. "Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it.

"It’s not going to be totally smooth," he told the paper. "… Things will happen."

Dungy didn’t specify what "things," exactly, he expected Sam to encounter, but Dungy’s stance on homosexuality is well documented. In 2007, Dungy found himself embroiled in a bit of controversy when he accepted the "Friend of Family" award from the Indiana Family Institute, a conservative group that supported a proposed gay-marriage ban in the state.

"I appreciate the stance they’re taking, and I embrace that stance," Dungy said when he accepted the award. "We’re not trying to downgrade anyone else. But we’re trying to promote the family — family values the Lord’s way. … IFI is saying what the Lord says. You can take that and make your decision on which way you want to be."

After Jason Collins became the first openly gay NBA player last year, however, Dungy seemed to have softened his stance when he spoke out in support of Collins’ decision to come out as gay.

Only time will tell how Sam’s openness about his own sexuality will impact NFL locker room culture, and certainly there are many who expect it won’t go "totally smooth," as Dungy put it.