Marla R. Stevens

Colts' Coach Dungy bungles employment civil rights questions on HBO

Filed By Marla R. Stevens | January 04, 2008 4:31 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Entertainment, Fundie Watch, Politics, The Movement
Tags: civil rights, employment protections, Indianapolis Colts, religion, Tony Dungy

Tony Dungy, in a recent interview on Bob Costas' NFL show on HBO, virtually announced how he has and/or plans to break several federal, state, and local civil rights laws regarding employees' rights to employment regardless of religion and sexual orientation.

In a discussion on the pressures in the workplace Dungy's responsible for for the players, who are employees, to participate in Christian group religious exercises, he claims that players are free to not participate but then describes a workplace so hostile to religious freedom that "only one player" has come to him to explain why he would not participate.

Dungy was utterly oblivious to the evidence he had provided on national television that there was such a strong expectation of participation and of retaliation for non-participation that that player felt it necessary to come to him to seek permission not to participate.

Taking his oblivion further, Dungy seemed unaware of the evidence he provided that fear of retaliation must be so strong that only one person was brave enough to approach him in all the years he's coached the Colts. I have no idea what the actual numbers are on pro football players' religious preferences, but I strongly doubt that they are merely the percentage of one non-whatever-sort-of-Christian-prefers-employment- pressure-to-participate divided by Christian-employment-pressure-Dominionism-supporters enough not to make for self-selection away from the Colts no matter how much a player wants a chance to be in the playoff championship game or Superbowl, not to mention the evidence it seems to have provided regarding much hostile workplace going-along-to-get-along among Colts players over the years.

Then, icing his bigot cake, Dungy explains how he'd not fire a gay player but would subject him to a humiliating session where Dungy would "sit him down" and lecture him about how "wrong" he thinks the status of being gay is -- again utterly oblivious to his textbook description of the creation of a hostile workplace, including that describing it on national television in this manner was as clear statement of employment bigotry as if the Colts had posted a sign outside their personnel office reading, "No Gays Need Apply".

It was jaw-droppingly stupid behavior. Thanks are in order for Costas for asking the questions, however softball his response, and for airing Dungy's foot-in-mouth responses. I hope someone gets a copy of the show for future use when a brave player has finally had enough. At the very least, it's past time for the Commissioner to have the talk that really needs to take place -- with Dungy and the Colts' owners and managers that puts an end to their operating a bigoted shop.


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Marla, I doubt any NFL player will ever come out while they are still playing. Only 3 football players have ever come out: Esera Tuaolo, Dave Kopay & Roy Simmons. I think you make a fine point about a hostile environment, but I don't think it's unique to the Colts. I think it's the entire NFL.

Colts Smoltz | January 4, 2008 6:31 PM

Interesting story.

There are multiple former (and maybe current??) Colts who have dated local guys. I know. I was one of the local guys...years ago.

They are petrified of coming out. Coach Dungy and his views won't help.

But if you think this Commissioner will have anyhting close to a tough love conservation, you're dreaming.

Won't happen.

Marla R. Stevens | January 4, 2008 8:51 PM

I'm not exactly holding my breath that the Commissioner will behave as he should but that doesn't mean that we should not point out the obvious that it is part of his job to protect the league from what will inevitably end up an embarassment.

Telling the truth is a good start toward laying the foundation for that change -- both in pointing out that the players are there who need protecting and that the problem isn't limited to the Colts. Thank you both!

Dungy has been making quite a few statements about LGBT players lately. On another occasion he said he'd allow an openly gay player on his team, but he'd feel obligated to preach to him that his religion says the player is going to hell. I'll have to find it now...

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | January 6, 2008 4:21 AM

That pretty much echoes the intent of his HBO statement, Bil. It had the character of something he'd previously thought about and decided to handle this illegal way. I'm not at all surprised that he would have said it similarly before. He clearly doesn't get it that he's an employment manager in this matter first and that that legal responsibility supercedes any old-style "coach"-daddy habits he might have acquired or prefer.