Tony Dungy is one of the most important Black figures in NFL history, who has broken barriers on and off the field. Tony Dungy frequently finds himself in problematic situations that impede the community that he intends to do right by. Two things can be true at the same time.
Earlier this week, Dungy took part in a press conference in which a new bill was signed into law in Florida that will provide $70 million in funding to various programs that address fatherhood, including things like mentorship programs for at-risk youth and services that will give fathers the necessary resources to handle their child support responsibilities.
“I asked [Abe Brown], how do those young boys (19, 20, 21) get [in prison]? And he told me it’s not socio-economic, it’s not racial, it’s not education, it’s none of that. 95% of these boys did not grow up with their dad,” Dungy explained at the press conference. The former Tampa Bay Bucs head coach was on hand because he supports the bill and all that it stands for because he has an organization called “All Pro Dad” whose mission is to help men “love and lead” their family well.”
Sounds like a great idea, right?
This is one of those situations in which the letter of the law seems just until you realize that it’s written with coded language that makes the spirit of it problematic. Every time terms like “at-risk youth” are used and things like child support are mentioned, you can be sure that it’s being directed at people in Black and Brown communities as if youth can’t be “at risk” in the suburbs. In case you didn’t know, being a baby daddy with child support issues isn’t reserved for Black people.
Something that seems so pure on first glance, like helping fathers rehabilitate their situations and homes, isn’t the issue. The problem arises when you realize where the bill was signed into the law, who authorized it, and how Dungy is being used to make this look like a feel-good story when it’s an example of how respectability politics are so damaging.
With Dungy standing behind him, and flanked by his children, and kids and fathers of different races, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill-7065 into law on Monday in Tampa. The image is a far cry from the one we saw of DeSantis last month at a different press conference.
“You do not have to wear those masks,” DeSantis said as he snapped at a group of students from the University of South Florida. “Please take them off. Honestly, it’s not doing anything. We’ve gotta stop with this COVID theater. So if you wanna wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous.”
Fact check: More than 73,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Florida. But the man that was elected to govern them believes that wearing masks is “theater” as if it were satire.
Beyond the countless things that DeSantis has done while in office to make Florida arguably the worst state in the nation, he’s been in the news recently for being the first governor to sign a “Don’t Say Gay” bill into law that marginalizes the LGBTQ+ community by outlawing teachers to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity in grades from kindergarten through third.
Side note, DeSantis was once again flanked by kids/students during that press conference, as he’s figured out that it’s good optics to be surrounded by youth whenever he’s about to say/sign something that contradicts that image.
But, let’s get back to Dungy, and why his approving of legislation that DeSantis signed into law is on-brand for him, as he’s often an apologist for racists.
“It is just so important,” said Dungy about the fatherhood law that DeSantis signed on Monday. “It’s going to allow groups like ours, people like you, to do great things for our fathers here in Florida.” The governor then spoke about how much he appreciates Dungy, and how he’s “doing the Lord’s work.”
However, God don’t like ugly. And being homophobic is one of the most hideous things a person can be. As you probably guessed, Dungy and DeSantis are both homophobes.
In 2014, Dungy publicly discussed why he wouldn’t have drafted Michael Sam when he was trying to become the first openly gay player in the NFL. “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,” he hatefully explained.
A few years later, the kneeling started. Dungy was willing and ready to be the Black mouthpiece that bigots needed once again to get on TV and talk about why bringing awareness to racism and police brutality wasn’t a good look, because to him when it came to getting a message across, “the best way is not three minutes before the national anthem.” Dungy also went on FOX News to proclaim that he believes “standing is the way to go.” He would go on to say that he felt like teams around the league viewed Colin Kaepernick — a man that didn’t commit a crime — in the same way as Michael Vick and Joe Mixon, a man that went to prison and another that was caught on video knocking a woman out. That was followed by Dungy wondering if Kaepernick’s desire to return to the field after he circumvented the sham of a workout that the league unsuccessfully tried to put on for him. Three years later, Kaepernick is still working out and posting videos expressing his desire to return to the league if given an opportunity.
In 2007, Dungy became the first Black coach to ever win a Super Bowl. Earlier this week, the Indianapolis Colts announced the first two members of the inaugural Tony Dungy Diversity Fellowship that was announced in March that will provide the organization “with access to talented coaches while also fostering and expanding the team’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives,” in the wake of Brian Flores’ lawsuit against the league and multiple franchises.
Tony Dungy is a man that has built bridges and knocked down walls and glass ceilings in the name of inclusion and diversity. Tony Dungy is a man that has obstructed progress with his words, and has willingly been used by Conservatives to the detriment of Black and Brown people. Two things can be true at the same time.