Tony Dungy, former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, is an outspoken and wonderfully consistent Christian. His story is told in several books that reveal his faith and principles of personal coaching and leadership: Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices and Priorities of a Winning Life, Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance and The Mentor Leader: Secrets to Building People and Teams That Win Consistently. Dungy has recently become an NBC analyst for NFL games. This new job has opened Dungy to a lot of harsh criticism. He has been called by critics a “high priest, the oracle who passes judgment on all moral questions.”
Since football involves a whole host of moral and personal issues Dungy is frequently asked to weigh in on people and situations in his new role. Questions such as: “Should Reggie Bush have returned his Heisman Trophy?” Or, “Does Michael Vick deserve forgiveness?” Or recently, “Should Coach Rex Ryan cut back on the f bombs?” Dungy has answered yes to all three questions. He has urged compassion toward LeGarrette Blount, the Tampa Bay running back who punched an opposing player while at Oregon last season, and also proposed stiffer punishment for Jets receiver Braylon Edwards, who was benched for one quarter for a DUI. Dungy said one game was more appropriate. Some of players, both Blount and Vick, have actually turned to Coach Dungy for personal counsel.
But Coach Dungy has recently come under considerable fire for his stance on virtue and life. A Google search will reveal that Tony Dungy’s name is now connected to “holier than thou,” a fact which Sports Illustrated noted in the October 18 issue. This site got 871 hits in one week. Another source attacked Dungy, calling him: “Tony Dungy: An Insufferable S—.”
In Phil Taylor’s Sports Illustrated (SI) article he quotes Dungy saying: “I’m not trying to be anyone’s judge or conscience. I don’t feel that I’m saying or doing anything different from what I always have. NBC has given me a platform, but I’ve always been passionate about doing what’s right, about Christian values, and I’ve never hidden that. I really haven’t changed.”
What has changed, says SI’s Phil Taylor, is that “Dungy has a freer rein, unconcerned with the taboo against a coach sticking his nose into another team’s business. He’s a media member, paid to give his opinions, and the more often he speaks his mind, the more likely he is to encounter opposition.” Dungy says, “People are going to disagree with me sometimes, which is fine. I’m not suggesting that I have all the answers.”
Phil Taylor writes that “The vitriol aimed at Dungy is hard to fathom. He has none of the bombast of, say a Limbaugh or a Sharpton; he’s not an attention junkie and doesn’t revel in stirring up controversy. He has the ability, increasingly rate among those who consider themselves social commentators, to criticize without mockery or sarcasm. How exactly does this make him insufferable?”
My answer to Phil Taylor’s question is rooted in the gospel that Tony Dungy loves and lives in his life day-in-and-day-out.
God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven (Matthew 5:11-12, NLT).
Tony Dungy is not Charles Barkley for sure. Barkley can take on various people and decisions and folks say, “Sir Charles is just being who he is.” Dungy humbly answers a question with an honest answer and the response is akin to sheer hatred. Taylor asks, “Could it be then, that Dungy’s virtue makes some of us uneasy? Maybe we are so unaccustomed to a good man simply trying to apply his own set of values to the world around him that his critics have been reading him wrong. You needn’t believe he is always right to appreciate his efforts to do right. There’s nothing sanctimonious about that.”
When I read Phil Taylor’s words I thought to myself: “Blessed are you Tony Dungy.” I wish more public figures lived their faith in this way, speaking the truth but doing it with humility. Tony Dungy is hated for his Christian values and practices and openness. I don’t think there is much doubt about this when you listen to him and understand his life.
If you do not know Tony Dungy’s story here is a great video about the man and his faith.
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Good post. Dungy is hated not because he is outspoken. He isn’t really any more outspoken than the typical football analyst (besides Dungy is quietly outspoken, very tempered). But anytime a person claims to be a Christian and wishes everyone held that view, he or she is assumed to be over the top intolerant. Plus a lot of people despise Christian morality. There are two sports talk radio hosts in Chicago that particularly hate him. They despise Christianity because they don’t think you need it to be a moral person. “Why do you need Jesus to be a good parent – just be a good parent for crying out loud” is their anthem.
There is something else that could be behind the Dungy hatred. When his son tragically committed suicide a few years ago, it was pointed out that his family lived in Tampa Bay while Tony lived in Indy. He would barely see his family even though he did fly down there once a week. After his son committed suicide people said that you could see the signs coming if you were around him. Some people found Tony really hypocritical for trying to turn people into “All-star dads” when Tony neglected his family to coach sports. If he can’t be a Godly father, why is he trying to tell us to be one?