If you believe Tony Dungy’s critics, the Hall of Fame NFL coach is really a closeted Exalted Cyclops who dreams of burning rainbow crosses in front of Planned Parenthood in order to keep trans kids from their puberty blockers and women barefoot and pregnant.
The treatment Dungy has received for publicly affirming the right to life is proof that corporate media likes prayers to unspecified gods, Christians with closed Bibles, black men who promote death, and activist athletes endorsing causes they support.
The reactions to the respected coach and NBC broadcaster’s March for Life appearance have been attempts to paint pro-life advocacy and biblical sexual ethics as forms of intolerant extremism. Dungy delivered a speech at last Friday’s March for Life rally in Washington, D.C., the first since the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization overturned Roe v. Wade.
Dungy took a bold stand for the sanctity of life and the rights of the unborn. At one point he even stated that the lives of babies in the womb matter just as much as the life of Damar Hamlin, the Buffalo Bills player who suffered cardiac arrest during a game in early January.
In doing so, the trailblazing coach morphed from a model of dignity, strength, and winsomeness into a right-wing bigot, spreading hatred of LGBT people and promoting white supremacy.
This was the argument put forth by several sportswriters and social commentators. Dave Zirin of the Nation penned an emotionally charged screed that described the March for Life as a “madhouse of right-wing gadflies, disinformation addicts, Qanon adherents, and, most disturbingly, class after class of teenage and tween-age children dragged there by teachers who abuse their authority in ways that would make Ron DeSantis smirk.”
I attended the march. Zirin’s vision is as deficient as his worldview. Zirin also tried to connect Dungy, and a now-deleted tweet about litter boxes, to threats against children’s hospitals and assaults against LGBT kids.
Nancy Armour of USA Today sang a similar tune. She claimed that Dungy’s advocacy for black coaches doesn’t excuse his “bigotry against the LGBTQ community.” Armour, who attended Catholic school, claimed Jesus never addressed homosexuality or gay marriage in the Gospels. Perhaps she was out sick the day Jesus said the following in response to a question about divorce: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Armour might respond that this doesn’t address same-sex marriage directly. But that would be like saying a vegan restaurant doesn’t explicitly say it doesn’t sell ribeye steaks in its menu. The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation and every book in between, is crystal clear on the number of sexes and the definition of marriage.
Not to be outdone by the initial responses to Dungy’s “sin” of promoting life, Kevin Blackistone of the Washington Post tied Dungy's appearance at the March for Life to anti-abortion extremists, racist politicians, and Donald Trump. Blackistone, a supporter of Colin Kaepernick’s on-field protests, wondered how the NFL reacted to Dungy’s decision to “stand before anti-abortionists on a podium frequented by white supremacists and zealots.”
Even Dr. Harry Edwards, the sociologist who has made a career studying and advising black athletes, joined the fray. He tweeted that as someone with “friends, colleagues, neighbors, former students, contacts in every walk of life who are proudly 'out', active parts of their LGBTQ communities and who I treasure, I find Tony’s insipidly right wing bigotry disturbing or dangerous.”
In Harry Edwards’ world, living “out, loud, and proud” is for puppy play enthusiasts and leather daddies in San Francisco. Christians who believe in a biblical definition of marriage can practice their faith in the “closet” in their own homes.
Millions of Americans share Tony Dungy’s views on abortion and homosexuality. Many of those people are professing Christians. They see the Dobbs decision as a net good for society. Unlike Joe Biden, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, they did not tweet in somber reflection on what would have been the 50th anniversary of Roe.
Chris Broussard, a veteran sports journalist and professing Christian, contrasted the backlash Tony Dungy received with the praise lavished on black men who use their platforms to promote violence and destruction. His cultural analysis was spot-on.
The NFL featured Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and 50 Cent during last year’s Super Bowl halftime show. In 2021, the league also promoted rapper Meek Mill’s work for “social equity” and congratulated him on his album "Expensive Pain." There wasn’t much interest in the album cover, which depicted the bare breasts, behinds, and private parts of black women. Good thing he didn’t say his money was “kosher” or compliment Jewish record executives on their business acumen. The NFL would never stand beside anyone using harmful language that perpetuates stereotypes.
Attempts to get Tony Dungy fired and cast out of polite society are not about tolerance. They are acts of punishment that should serve as a wake-up call to faithful believers everywhere.
The issue isn’t Tony Dungy’s tone or demeanor. It’s his message.
People who worship at the altar of abortion and pray to the gods of sexual preference and gender identity cannot allow heretics like Dungy to spread his view in the public square. They know the false gospel of sexual liberation is no match for the good news of Jesus Christ.
To the people who think men can “become” women, biology is bigotry. When the government attempts to change the definition of “marriage,” people who believe it remains the union of one man and one woman for one lifetime will be seen as regressive. And those who believe life has inherent value regardless of gestational stage or location will be cast as theocrats who want to take women back to the 1950s.
Black Christians have even more pressure to conform. Biblical teaching on issues of sex, sexuality, and life are now framed as (white) Christian nationalism. No amount of goodwill or cultural capital amassed fighting racism can make up for refusal to support killing babies in the womb or affirm drag queens in libraries and schools.
People whose identities are built on the foundation of skin color will not survive the coming storm. Neither will believers who are willing to compromise biblical truth for cultural acceptance. Christians need to accept the fact that publicly affirming what the scriptures say about sex, sexuality, marriage, and life – foundational Genesis issues – will get us labeled as “hateful” by people who believe they are more loving to other image-bearers than our Creator is. There’s nothing we can do about that other than trust in God and continue to speak the truth in love. That is our only option.
We’re all Klansmen now.