Bil Browning

Tony Dungy and the whole shebang

Filed By Bil Browning | March 23, 2007 6:29 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Living, Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: American Values Alliance, constitutional amendment, Indiana Family Institute, Indianapolis Colts, marriage, Tony Dungy

So I have to admit, I've never seen this much attention paid to as I have over the Tony Dungy/Indiana Family Institute story. From the Associated Press to Sports Illustrated, from Pam's House Blend to Stampede Blue (a Colts fan blog), has been sent around the world. (The Sports Illustrated quote that they lifted from the blog is the funniest one to me. I can't even play ping pong!)

And lots of folks have been checking us out because of it. You may have noticed the comments section lighting up on quite a few posts. You might have seen one of the e-mailed comments sent to Michele O'Mara of our Ask Michele column. And while I shared one e-mail sent to me by a particularly verbally challenged "Christian," I haven't shared the huge pile of other e-mails I've gotten (99.99% from rightwingers).

Which brings me to the point of this post. Lots of our commentors and e-mail buddies keep complaining that Tony Dungy has his right to say what he wants. They are correct. Yes, if you're visiting to complain, read that again. You are correct. He can say whatever he wants. But, and this is a big but, so can the LGBT community.

Here's what most of those complaining about our stance have missed: Tony Dungy's words in support of the Indiana Family Institute have hurt our community. While he's entitled to his opinion, many gay and lesbian fans have supported the Colts time and time again - whether they were winning or losing. By demeaning our community with a quote that says, "IFI is saying what the Lord says. You can take that and make your decision on which way you want to be. I'm on the Lord's side," Coach Dungy is effectively saying that the discussion has become God vs Gays. IFI is not authorized to speak for God. If you are a Christian, I'd be surprised if you'd agree with even a tenth of what the IFI stands for. (Do you think Spongebob Squarepants makes you gay? Do you think Jesus would have discriminated? Do you think that gays and lesbians shouldn't be protected from someone who tries to kill them? Do you think that Christ taught love or hate?)

But not only did Dungy give his name (and his image in full Colts regalia) to the IFI, he also gave them $20,000 worth of his personal memorabilia to auction off. (I have confirmed with the Colts Community Relations Department that the merchandise was from Dungy's personal collection.) $20,000 can buy a lot of hate speech and publicity that can ruin our lives - literally. When Curt Smith stands in front of audiences calling our community "abominations" and "perverts," that message resonates with gullible folks who can take things to extremes. It's dangerous. And IFI is a dangerous group. They are affiliated with Focus on the Family - which the Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed a "hate group." Web filtering software blocks their site for "hate speech." This is not an organization that Coach Dungy should be affiliated with.

There are plenty of other organizations that Coach Dungy can support that also don't support same-sex marriage. That's his right. But by joining forces with IFI, he is - tacitly - endorsing hate. He's funding it with a total of $70,000 raised that evening. It's not the coach's stance on gay marriage I'm necessarily upset with - it's the alignment with the Indiana Family Institute.

Coach Dungy should have known better than to fall for an innocuous name that included the word "family." This organization is only concerned with some families. If I remember correctly, at the recent hearing on SJR-7 the IFI was questioned closely on their definition of family - which only included a man and a woman and children. Single parents or childless heterosexual couples need not apply. Are you getting the picture?

So, if you'd like to help combat Coach Dungy's gift to the religious right, I'd like to encourage everyone reading this to visit the American Values Alliance website. Sign up for an account. You'll notice a donation box on the left. The AVA is an Indiana organization that's dedicated to being "A practical voice for progressive values." They are a 501(c)3 not-for-profit. And I'm the Executive Director. You know that money will be put to good use - countering the hate and fear that groups like IFI spread in our state. And they've never had a $20,000 donation - most of their money has come in dribs and drabs over the past couple of years. It'd be money well spent - to promote tolerance and progressive values. Let's see if we can't raise even more money than IFI did.

Because the IFI's values aren't the values that are important to my family. And I don't think they're really Tony Dungy's values either.

(Cross-posted to the AVA website and Blue Indiana. Feel free to spread this post around the internet as well and put it on your own site.)

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Brian Leach | March 23, 2007 7:03 PM

You're right. Both your organization and Tony Dungy have the legal right to put forth your opinion. However, the Bible is clear about matters of sex. Whether you read the Old or the New Testement, God clearly limits sex to one man and one woman, bound together by marriage. Any sexual practive that deviates from that is sin. I'm sure that Tony would believe that premarital and extramarital sex are wrong as well. Thank you.

I'm just sayin.... | March 23, 2007 8:23 PM

Isn't this Tony's second marriage. What does your bible say about that Brian?

Having actually read the bible - both old and new testaments, I can say that Brian's comment is pretty far off base - the Old Testament especially espouses polygamous marriages - Abraham and David had multiple wives, as did most Old Testament men. Lot was commanded by God to sleep with and impregnate his daughters. And there are quite a few other bizarre sexual things that happened in both testaments. In fact, neither book seems particularly interested in promoting the nuclear family above all other arrangements.

And it has been pointed out numerous times here the bible has next to nothing to say about gay people, and what little it does say was ambiguous at best. Rather than just spouting religious right talking points, Brian, maybe you should consider actually picking that book up and reading it yourself, like the rest of us have.

All of this is completely irrelevant anyway - because your mythology and your god and your rules mean nothing to me, Brian. I believe in different things than you do, and my beliefs are just as valid as yours here in America.

Ellen Andersen | March 23, 2007 10:41 PM

Dear Brian,

In order to reach the conclusion that "God clearly limits sex to one man and one woman, bound together by marriage" you'd have to overlook a lot of the text. To take just a few examples:

Abraham has one wife, Sarah, and two concubines, Hagar and Keturah (Genesis 16; 25:1?2).

Jacob has two wives, Leah and Rachel (Gen 29:15?30).

David has seven wives who are named (1 Sam 18:17?30; 25:38?43; 2 Sam 3:2?5) and more unnamed wives as well as concubines (2 Sam 5:13).

The point here isn't to get into a flame war. It's to suggest, gently, that the Old and New Testaments are legitimately open to different readings and that all faith traditions privilege some stories -- and interpretations of those stories -- over others.

The Lady Feline | March 23, 2007 11:34 PM

Ellen: Don't forget, God also endorses sex between a soldier and a kidnapped woman. Not only endorses it, but explicitly outlines how to "properly" go about it - Deuteronomy 21:10-14, for those who are curious.

Frankly, the Bible has more to say about how to "properly" rape a woman, than it does to condemn homosexuality. So does that make it okay to rape someone, as long as you do it "right"?

The answer: a resounding NO. It's NEVER "okay" to rape, just like it's NEVER okay to discriminate based on someone's sexuality.

Biblical views on sexuality are obscenely outdated and irrelevant in today's (supposedly) educated society (and should never be enshrined in government, besides. That's a lovely step down the road to theocracy) Anyone who holds to them as contemporary and relevant needs to experience the kind of suffering that their antiquated views inflict upon other people. Maybe, just maybe, that would open their eyes.

Gawd you guys and girls are so funny. You make the most idiotic arguments. So WHAT if there were adulterers, fornicators, and men having more than one wife in the Bible. That doesn't mean that God condones it!! Does thou shall not commit adultry ring a bell?? Please stop trying to force your sexuality down our throats. I'm a single guy who pays more taxes than a married person. I don't like it but that's just the way it is. Deal with it!

the real Kevin | March 24, 2007 12:52 AM

I think what we are dealing here are dominionists...conservatives like to whine a lot about "moral relativism" and attach it to liberal thinking. It is rather obvious that these bible thumpers are certainly the American version of the Taliban, refusing to accept any biblical truth other than what they are ordered to believe. That means, since there are so many versions and denominations of Christianity in America, each with varying interpretations and understandings of scripture, that they don't respect the moral relativism of religious freedom.
And what better way to attack that basic founding concept than to demand constitutional amendments which reduce the rights of those who believe one way and elevate their beliefs, as they remind us constantly, to the SOLE source of legislation for ALL citizens.

You don't have to argue the bible at all with them - instead, it might make sense to assert that their religious beliefs infringe on yours, and thus they are advocating treason against the Constitution. Simply because one of these political dominionists wander in here and declare that they are the "Christians" doesn't mean squat. . .and they've done plenty to show they have no commitment to Christianity beyond using it as a political tool. You can call them "alleged" Christians, or self-appointed spokesmodels for God, but its time to stop letting them claim they have been appointed to declare wingnut sharia law over everyone.

This repeated crap about the "christian principles" the "founding fathers" used is a political ruse, propagated by a cabal of televangelist ministries and their lackey "conservative" churches whose goal include the overthrow of our government and the establishment of a "Christian" nation where only "acceptable" Christians may hold public office. In order to achieve that end, they must demonize segments of the population and drive a wedge among the majority of the American people, and in the process, amend constitutions to secure their claim to power.

Just ask them what Bible verse declares that all governments must proclaim that only "biblical families" may visit life partners in hospitals. Make them address the real issues in this legislation.

20 Large for Helmets? | March 24, 2007 6:15 AM

The $20,000 equipment donation changed my mind.

If it's from his personal collection, so be it. But if the Colts organization gave one shoelace to it, they're in for the long haul.

I'd collect a group of us together to demand that the Colts rethink their position in light of this information. And maybe adopt a policy regarding their tacit approval via donations. It's not too much to ask for an organization benefitting from all taxpayers the way they are.

While we're at it--who's up for picketing the Eric Miller rally Tuesday? My sign would say:

"What did I ever do to hurt YOU?"

Media coverage of SJR-7 has finally turning against passage of the amendment. The objections raised are the unintentional consequences to the heterosexual community:the loss of domestic violence protections and restrictions on private businesses. If we want SJR-7 to be defeated we need to hammer away on the harm it will do to straight people. It is sad that we have to resort to this but for the most part people don't care unless a law affects their lives.

If we focus on Tony Dudgy's actions we risk the chance of handing the media a much better news story. The media will play it out as our community attacking a hero and a man of deep faith. Frankly we cannot win that battle at this time. That is not to say we cannot call Mr. Dungy to account in the future time. He has a long history of using his position with the Colts to publicly proselytize and has expressed intolerant remarks in the past. He will do it again. Then will be the time to take Mr. Dungy to task for his participation in a hate group--IFI.

Personally, I think Tony missed wide right :)

I've gone round and round with this. I've been a Colts fan since they moved to Indy. I have a Colts license plate (or tag as they are called in some states) and tons of Colts shirts and sweatshirts (including my current favorite Super Bowl Champs gear).

One thing I have always liked about the Colts organization was their desire to do things "the right way". Sure, they have their problems (Dom Rhodes arrested for drinking and driving is the latest that comes to mind), but it seems the exception rather than the rule. Indy would never bring someone like Terrell Owens to play, regardless of their skilz.

I never really thought about the Christian connection with all of this because it was more of an action than a proclamation. That is the way it is supposed to be with Christians. I have nothing against Christianity. In fact, whether we buy into they whole thing or not, if we lived as Jesus said: "Love your neighbor as yourself", "Turn the other cheek", etc. the world would certainly be a different place to live in.

Having said all that, what is a Gay Colts fan to do? My license plate renewal is at the end of April. Do I keep that one or go with the "In God We Trust" plate? LOL.

Seriously. I've come to these conclusions.

1. Condemning the entire Colts organization for the words and actions of one of its members is no different than straight people thinking I spend every night in a wild sex orgy because I am gay (which, for the record I don't, nor would I want to). Sure you can be judged by the company you keep, but that is only one small part of the equation.

2. I didn't like it when the Dixie Chicks said their mind and were promptly crucified for it. I believed they had the right to speak their mind, therefore, I must allow Mr. Dungy the same right. I am certainly disappointed in the outcome, but it is still his right.

3. I still love football. I still live less than 30 miles from Indy. The Colts will still be here long after Dungy is gone. I suffered through the 3-13 seasons. No way I'm not gonna revel in a Super Bowl championship.

So I'm keeping the gear and the license plate. At the end of the day, regardless of amendments and statements of support, I will still be with my partner and we will still love each other. They can't take that away from us, even if she is a Dolphins fan (now, if she were a Patriots fan?:)

To be honest, we don't support ($) any professional sports teams that exact taxpayer monies to keep their franchise/business at the "profit margin they deem appropriate." Which isn't to say that my partner doesn't enjoy watching the games on TV; just that we don't support any team otherwise by buying gear, spending our money eating out etc.

That aside, we really do think it's important to acknowledge to ourselves and educate the public wherever bigotry slaps us in the face. Dungy's remarks and fundraising efforts on behalf of IFI were indicative not of a man simply stating his opinion and beliefs but of a man who was stating his bigoted opinion and beliefs, which do have negative real life consequences. The bigotry requires an appropriate educational type response to help others understand the difference.

At the same time, we do agree with Mark and others who remind us that the present time is not best time as the SJR7 battle takes priority.

However, that does not mean that there will not be a time in the near future (end of summer...beginning of new season?) to confront the bigotry. Which, btw, is why we agree with the suggestion that a published educational response is the appropriate way to go. And if that does become the effort, it will take time to find the right organization to handle the details and raise the funds needed.

Dear Mr. Dungy,

You have a right to your opinion and I honor that right. However, I should remind you that finally winning a Superbowl (that you couldn't lead your team to when you had the best record in the AFC) does not give you any type of special knowledge of just what is "God's side" in the complex issues of our world. Please be advised that the Bible that I assume you follow does not say "And God created Heaven and Earth and gave Tony Dungy special status to be on his side and to know his mysteries."

If I am wrong and you have the correct clarification of this, please let me know.

Until then, I would like to make a small suggestion that you do not mistake your awards and status as any type of designation to tell the rest of us just what is God's side in the complex matters of this world, including the issue of same-sex marriage.

How is that for a letter?