Don Sherfick

Tony, say it isn't so!

Filed By Don Sherfick | January 28, 2007 8:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Fundie Watch, Living, Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: gay teens, homophobic behavior, Indiana Family Institute, Indianapolis, Indianapolis Colts, Superbowl, Tony Dungy

The day the Indianapolis Colts beat New England in the nail-biter that will take them to the Superbowl next Sunday I posted a cheer on behalf of a lot of loyal and admiring LGBT fans. I firmly share their deep admiration for coach Tony Dungy and his efforts. But I also share their dismay and disappointment over the news that in March Tony will be the guest of honor at the Indiana Family Institute's special event dinner.

The IFI is one of the leading proponents of SJR7, the proposed Indiana Constitutional amendment on marriage rights, and other legislative efforts to deny equal rights to LGBT folks. Under the guise of protecting traditional family values, it helps spread misinformation that fosters bigitory toward our community and our own families. Tony is undoubtedly a very fine father and devoted family man, and for that he deserves high praise. His refusal to resort to shouting, cursing and other demeaning tactics many other NFL coaches use is extremely commendable. And I think most in our community take pride in the fact that either he or his colleague Lovie Smith, coach of the Bears, will become the first African American coach in NFL history to win a Superbowl.

But Tony's prominent appearance before this group, as a representative of a major sports institution in Indianapolis, sends a chilling message. All of us shared the grief that Tony and his family experienced a year ago when his son took his own life. I understand that stories about a connection to sexual orientation were unfounded, and I would defend Tony's right to consider that a private matter. Still, there is an irony many of us in the LGBT community know well: The number of LGBT youth who have taken their lives because of self-hatred and homophobia is much above the national average. Organizations of the IFI variety cannot escape the fruits of their helping to foster the myths and resulting bigotry which contribute to those grim statistics. Surely Tony doesn't in any way support that; so why is he lending his celebrity and role model status to such a group?

And what does it say about his boss Jim Irsay and the Colt's front office's attitude toward our segment of its fan base? Take a look at the IFI announcement again. Tony appears fully engaged on the sidelines, wearing a blue Colts cap and jacket. The implied message of Colts and NFL corporate endorsement of the IFA's views is a very unsettling one.

I believe that Tony is a good man. Although many of us may not share the view that God has a direct interest in football games and losses (as his postgame references to Jesus seem to imply) we still respect his Christian faith and his attempts to live by it.

Still, somebody has fumbled the ball here.......and a timeout and careful replay of the decision ought to be in order. I continue to say, as we go to Miami for the big one: GO COLTS......but as to Tony's scheduled apperance before the Indiana Family Institute, please look carefully downfield before the ball is thrown.

2/7/07 Editor's note: You can find more on this story on bilerico.com at the following links:

You can find the original story at: Tony Say It Isn't So!
The story breaks nationwide: Like deja vu all over again
Last week's poll on the Colts: Show me your poll!
The Colts make a non-statement: The Colts respond - sort of
More blogs pick up the story: Don hits it big
Snickers adds to the fray with this week's poll: Snickers goes nuts with the Colts


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How sad that the Coach doesn't see the poison that groups like this one spread throughout the human community. I hope that people will let the Coach know how very un-Christ-like this and related groups are. Also, on the IFI website, you can identify the sponsors for this event. I see no reason to support any of these businesses, since they clearly will not support our community.

Just what I was thinking Adam! Here they are:

IFI BANQUET SPONSORS

Symphony Bank
CGI-AMS
Aspen Group
American Environmental
Waffle House Family Restaurants
Ronald Blue & Co.
Hall, Render, Killian, Heath, and Lyman
The Parks at Prestwick and Dayspring Real Estate Services
Real Estate Links
John McKenzie Collection
Indiana Basketball Association
Allen D. Meyer & Associates
Menuplicity.com
Mosier Automation
Heartland Report.com
Christian Blue Pages
Marriott- Downtown Indianapolis
The Chronicle Christian News

Organize a protest. With signs. I'll be there--and so should all of us.

Tony will have another Super Bowl ring then, partly subsidized by all Marion County taxpayers via the cozy Colts leases for practice and playing facilities. he's certainly entitled to his opinions and to address any group he desires.

So are we.

Tony is entitled to his own beliefs and opinions, and although it is unfortunate that he supports this position, it is not a reason to root against the Colts. There are certainly many deserving players on the team who do not.
To take such a stance would be comparable to undermining a project at work simply because the manager is a bigot--not that Tony falls into that category.

This isn't a religious organization, it's a political one. Tony isn't expressing his religious beliefs here, he's fundraising for a controversial political organization that has an anti-gay political agenda. This is Tony espousing political beliefs, whether he's aware of it or not.

Okay - I'm going to take a liberty here... I'm going to copy a quote from Steph's website that pretty much sums up my feelings on this whole thing. She said it better than I have...

"That really puts damper on my excitement for the Colts and the Superbowl. I had no idea that Tony Dungy hated me. I'm hardly going to be cheering for him now. It happens every time - you get all excited about being a part of something cool, and somebody comes along to remind you - "hey, you're not really one of us. You don't belong." Even though I've been out for over 20 years now, it still stings, every time."

Thanks, Steph. It sucks being on the outside looking in each damn time, doesn't it?

hey there... while you didn't exactly get atrios'd, you did break a story that got atrios'd, which is the next best thing.

You all are welcome to come up and root for the Beats with me in Northwest Indiana! ;-)

The coach is a very religious man. I highly doubt that he took the time to read up on every single activity the Indiana Family Institute is involved in. Its his right to make up his mind for himself. He's not a politican so its not like we can just vote for the other guy.

Tony might not have read up on them, but you can bet that the PR people at the Colts organization have. You think they let just anyone use the head coach's image and the Colts logo on their advertising? He can support anyone he likes as a private individual, but when he puts on that blue shirt and hat he's no longer a private person. He's representing the Colts... both the adminstration and also every single individual team member. You have to be careful about these things, and someone dropped the ball. The IFI is horrifically offensive to lots of people (not just gays), and is a monumentally stupid PR move. Write in, give them a chance to fix it... but if they don't, then let's all root for the Bears.

Pick your battles carefully... I don't see that right now is a good time for this battle. Speaking as a gay guy, I'm against any of these love the sinner hate the sin, or hate the sinner hate the sin, or beat them up and burn them at the stake groups.

As Grand Moff Tarkin might say, "We will deal with your friends soon enough!"

Let Tony have his game. If he wins, the city looks good. If he loses, then he is vulnerable to more... pressure, shall we say. In any case the GLBT community in Indianapolis is doing better every year, and the Rethug Neocons? They just look more and more stupid.

I'm not going to politicize football, and I find it personally objectionable that people I agree with ideologically would call for such a thing. Dungy as an individual, and yes the Colts as an organization, are free within reason to choose who they wish to associate themselves with. I won't personally make it a political issue, and as such I'll just enjoy the game for what it is...a great matchup of two talented teams in the biggest game of the year.

A protest on March 20 sounds like a good idea. Signage, media, articulate spokespersons, and follow-up would certainly be in order.

And are there other options manageable in the next six weeks?

For example, could one contact the Ritz Charles and offer to pay an extra fee ($5,000? $10,000?) to take over the facility that evening, thereby screwing up the event and potentially denying funding to the org? And does there exist such a benefactor or benefactors willing to pony up the cash? (I imagine contracts are signed and it would take a lot for the Ritz Charles to consider that, if it's even legal...) Similarly, are there GLBT-friendly Ritz Charles clients who might choose to take their business elsewhere -- Oak Hill Mansion, say, or somewhere downtown -- if the IFI event takes place at the Ritz Charles? Boycotts can be quite effective.

And/Or: Might one (or many) contact Coach Dungy directly and politely ask that he not participate in the IFI event?

And/Or: Might one (or many) utilize personal and professional networks to influence Colts players, Colts cheerleaders, Colts front office people, etc., so that they might influence Coach Dungy?

The timing is crucial -- anything done this week would need to be done assertively, but without threat. Anything done after this week would need to be done with intentional media coverage, so as not to lose the effectiveness of the effort.

I can't help but think of a conversation between two Doonesbury characters thirty years or so back.

Clyde: "I hear you're gay."
Andy: "And I hear you're black."
Clyde: "Yeah, but that's normal, dammit!"
Andy: "Didn't used to be."

Maybe someone should thumbtack a copy of that strip on Dungy's door.

True faith instills in one a life-long quest for personal enlightenment, and belief that he or she can always be a better person tomorrow than they are today.

Conversely, blind faith inoculates its adherents with the false notion that their personal beliefs make them inherently superior to most everyone else, and thus entitled to pass judgment.

I cannot in good conscience compartmentalize Tony Dungy's otherwise laudable achievements as the Colts' coach from his willingness to shill for a so-called "Christian" organization that focuses almost exclusively on the promotion of an anti-gay and anti-choice political agenda.

The Jesus Christ I learned about as a schoolchild certainly wasn't someone who would smile approvingly upon the efforts of these self-loathing people whose religious schizophrenia is obviously nurtured by their own hatred toward others whom they perceive as different from themselves.

I'm very sorry that Tony Dungy and his family suffered the painful loss of a child in such a horrific and very public manner, but I also lament that he apparently gained little or no positive spiritual insight from this otherwise life-altering experience.

Members of the GLBT community, their families and their friends should urge both the Irsay family and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to state unequivocally this leveraging of Mr. Dungy's personal celebrity to promote intolerance and divisiveness is neither appreciated nor sanctioned by either the Indianapolis Colts or the National Football League.

"The coach is a very religious man. I highly doubt that he took the time to read up on every single activity the Indiana Family Institute is involved in."

You don't have to read very far - their primary goals are legislating against glbt people. That's what they do; they're not a religious organization, they're a political one.

And I'm not buying for a second that Tony doesn't know what they actually do. It's not a mystery, and his people would vet that very carefully.

Take the standard anti-gay rights/anti-'special rights' for gays propaganda handed out in churches all across America.

Substitute "Negro" or "Colored" for "Gay" or "Homosexual".

Voila! It's just like you've been handed a flyer from the Montgomery White Citizens Council, circa 1960.

(Really, if you can find examples on the web of WCC literature, you can substitute gay/homosexual, and it sounds like it's right from Focus on the Family and such like groups.)

SO it's doubly disturbing to see black Americans, many of whom have parents & grandparents who experienced the same prejudices and discrimination as gays and lesbians are facing now, come out in support of these "pro-family" groups.

It sucks that Dungy has "come out" as a homophobe, but if you're thinking about rooting for the Bears because of it, ask yourself - do you really believe there aren't players and coaches on that team who don't feel the same way?

Don't make the mistake of thinking that professional athletes are somehow different from the jocks you went to high school and college with...

Has IE or any other group thought about writing Dungy a letter about how the LGBT community feels about his affiliation with the IFI? How about letters from IE to Irsay and the NFL, too? Sounds like this is a good time to start a huge educational campaign. Make the letters public, too. Question his motives. I asked several church-going friends if they had even heard of the IFI, and they had not. I educated them, and the LGBT groups need to start doing the same to the public at large...and quickly.

I'll give Tony the benefit of the doubt here and assume that he's supporting the organization based on its publically stated mission - to strengthen Hoosier families - and not because he or the Colts organization are anti-gay. To be honest, I've never heard of the Indiana Family Institute (until now) and a quick visit to their Web site reveals nothing about their anti-gay policies. So naturally, if one doesn't take the time to research the organization beyond the information that is posted on their Web site it's easy and understandable to assume that they are a harmless organization. For Dungy's sake, I hope that's what happened.

I don't really have a fave of the two teams playing but I decided last week I was going to root for the Colts. Nope, no longer, my support will go to the Bears now.

I suggest that those of us with a problem with this send feedback to the Colts. There's a contact page and you can feel free to call or email them. I sent my protest letter to the PR department. Of course, it doesn't hurt if you're season a ticket holder...

I'd copy in my letter in the comments here but it was kinda verbose.

It was interesting to me that you brought up the myth that Tony Dungy believes God has a direct interest in the outcome of football games, as opposed just to being interested in people, win or lose. Is this from the misinterpretation of his comments after the loss to the Steelers last year that some in the media decided meant Dungy expected God to win the game for him? That's not what Dungy said, if you read a full transcript of those comments.

So you say you respect his Christian faith anyway, despite what prejudices you have about it. Well, that's big of you, only this whole piece shows that to be a lie. You don't want Dungy to speak if his views on homosexuality are the usual ones of bible-believing Christians. OK, but you can't have it both ways. Why do you pretend you can, that you can censor someone and still respect him?

My vote is for same-sex marriage. I know I'm outvoted on that for now in most states. I'm even arrogant enough to think I'm right in that and those voting the other way are prejudiced, just as you are prejudiced in your little dig at Dungy's faith. People are like that. You can try to tell them they're wrong, maybe without much benefit. Then you just have to wait. It doesn't mean you have to lie about them or insult how they came to be so prejudiced.

I'm tired of the "individuals can support whomever they want" strain of defense. As has been pointed out, the picture is not of Dungy in street clothes as an individual, it is of Dungy on the sidelines, in uniform with the Colts logo (meaning with the team's and league's permission).

These people aren't really private individuals when the teams and the league are constantly sucking down taxpayer money for their stadia. Here in Minnesota we are being asked to accept tax raises (the only thing you can get our republican governor to support a tax hike for) for the Vikings' third stadium. We're still paying higher taxes in Minneapolis for the Dome.

They keep wanting to take my money. And they want to support a group like IFI. Lest it go unnoticed, the marriage protection amendment in Michigan has now been interpreted to disallow health benefits. In no way should my tax money be used to raise the visibility of a group that wants to prevent me from being a full citizen of this country.

I was rooting for the Colts precisely because I was rooting for Dungy. (I hate Manning and teams that blackmail and leave their towns). But no more. Screw 'em. I don't care if that's not what he really believes. Actions have consequences. If you agree to help raise funds for a hate group, you must accept that you will be associated with that hate.

FU Dungy.

He's also appearing at the Anderson Church of God this month (browse their website for a variety of anti-gay resolutions).

Discouraging.

Why Tony Why? Why would you disrespect millions of Americans who enjoy making sweet love to a member of the same sex? What about the 10% of the players on your team who not only play a sport with other men, but love other men? And what of fans of your team? Those that cheer for your Colts on Sunday, then make sweet love to their same-sex partner that evening? I am truly ashamed.