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Tony Dungy clarifies Michael Sam comments

Tony Dungy clarifies Michael Sam comments Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Former Buccaneers and Colts coach Tony Dungy issued a statement on Tuesday clarifying remarks he made about Michael Sam in a Tampa Tribune article.

Dungy was quoted as saying he wouldn't have picked Sam, the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL, because he "wouldn't want to deal with all of it."

Dungy's comments drew harsh criticism, with some pointing out the irony of his advocating for quarterback and convicted dog killer Michael Vick.

Here is Dungy's statement, in full, from Pro Football Talk:

On Monday afternoon while on vacation with my family, I was quite surprised to read excerpts from an interview I gave several weeks ago related to this year’s NFL draft, and I feel compelled to clarify those remarks.

I was asked whether I would have drafted Michael Sam and I answered that would not have drafted him.  I gave my honest answer, which is that I felt drafting him would bring much distraction to the team. At the time of my interview, the Oprah Winfrey reality show that was going to chronicle Michael’s first season had been announced.

I was not asked whether or not Michael Sam deserves an opportunity to play in the NFL.  He absolutely does.

I was not asked whether his sexual orientation should play a part in the evaluation process.  It should not.

I was not asked whether I would have a problem having Michael Sam on my team.  I would not.

I have been asked all of those questions several times in the last three months and have always answered them the same way—by saying that playing in the NFL is, and should be, about merit.

The best players make the team, and everyone should get the opportunity to prove whether they’re good enough to play.  That’s my opinion as a coach.  But those were not the questions I was asked.

What I was asked about was my philosophy of drafting, a philosophy that was developed over the years, which was to minimize distractions for my teams.

I do not believe Michael’s sexual orientation will be a distraction to his teammates or his organization.

I do, however, believe that the media attention that comes with it will be a distraction.  Unfortunately we are all seeing this play out now, and I feel badly that my remarks played a role in the distraction.

I wish Michael Sam nothing but the best in his quest to become a star in the NFL and I am confident he will get the opportunity to show what he can do on the field.

My sincere hope is that we will be able to focus on his play and not on his sexual orientation.

Dungy has served as an analyst on NBC's Football Night in America since retiring from coaching after the 2008 season. 

More Dungy: Why Tony Dungy wouldn't have drafted Michael Sam

- Chris Johnson

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