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It was admirable when Tony Dungy was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016, as he followed wing luminaries Bill Parcells, John Madden, Hank Stram, George Allen and Marv Levy as coaches so honored before him in the 2000s.

It was anything but when Dungy accepted an invitation to speak Friday at the March for Life on the National Mall. Because at the nation’s largest annual gathering abortion enemies, continued on his podium, over the years, Sen. Jesse Helms, anti-abortion extremist Randall Terry and Donald Trump, among others.

To be sure, Helms was, upon his retirement from office in 2001, “the last prominent outright white racist politician in this country,” like the great Washington Post political columnist David S. Broder. wrote. Terry founded the anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue, which distributed a “wanted” poster for a Florida abortion doctorDavid Gunn, at a rally the summer before Gunn was assassinated in 1993, was shot three times in the back outside his Florida clinic. And Trump did what anti-abortion Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush before him feared to do because of the extremist undertones of the event: Spoke live at the annual march.

However, Dungy went ahead with his speaking engagement, using his athletic celebrity along with his religiousness as deodorant for a bigotry issue.

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That came days after a tweet from Dungy for which he was legitimately and solidly denounced, shamed into apologizing and deleting his words. He had amplified for Dungy’s nearly 1 million supporters a dangerous hoax of reactions about how far schools are supposed to accommodate students’ differences in identity, and about the need to stop them. Ultimately, the well-tested fabrication was aimed at disobeying the needs of LGBTQ children, and even those of children of color who need the opportunity to explore their stories and have others learn them. It was a slap in the face for Tampa Bay linebacker Carl Nassib, whom the league has celebrated since revealed that he is gaybecoming the first active NFL player to do so.

A person at NBC told me Monday that Dungy apologized to the “Football Night in America” ​​team, of which he is a face. And the network reminded staff in a memo that “…NBC Sports does not support or condone the views expressed in the tweet and we have made that clear to Tony. Our company has long and proudly supported LGBTQ+ rights and works hard to ensure that all of our employees are seen, recognized, recognized and respected.”

If the league did the same, or reacted as it did after Colin Kaepernick’s protest, when decreed fines for any team with a player on the field who didn’t stand up for the national anthem, I don’t know. The league did not respond to my email requesting clarification on its position regarding the Dungy partnerships.

Dungy posted his regret Saturday before participating in NBC’s playoff broadcast: “Last week I posted a tweet that I later deleted. I issued an apology but not everyone saw it. So I’m reposting my apology here. As a Christian I want to be a force of love for all. A force for healing and reconciliation, not for animosity.”

He tweeted his original mea culpa on Wednesday. He was saying, “I saw a tweet [Tuesday] and I answered him wrongly. As a Christian, I must speak in love and in ways that are caring and helpful. I couldn’t do that and I’m deeply sorry.”

I’m not sure what “answered incorrectly” means. But that didn’t stop Dungy from embracing his moment to stand in front of pro-lifers at a podium frequented by white supremacists and fanatics. And from there he even found the nerve to invoke the recent story of Damar Hamlin, the Buffalo Bills player who is on the mend. after suffering a cardiac arrest during a matchas a sort of justification for derogating from a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy.

“People wanted to see that life saved,” Dungy told the March for Life flock, referring to Hamlin. “These are people who are not necessarily religious; they came together and called on God. Well, that should cheer us up because that’s exactly why we’re here. Because every day in this country, innocent lives are at stake. The only difference is that they do not belong to a famous athlete and are not seen on national television.

I know there are some aspiring black coaches in the NFL who would rather see Dungy use this energy and seriousness to support his discrimination lawsuit against the league’s hiring practices, perhaps helping the next Negro Hall of Fame coach. But other than words, he hasn’t joined her cause in action, as he fights against abortion and LGBTQ people.

It is not my intention to criticize religiosity, although Dungy has used his to criticize non-Christian religions and people whom his version of Christianity rejects. He is an evangelical Christian who has been openly opposed not only to abortion but also to same-sex marriage. against whom he campaigned in Indiana when he was coaching the Colts, and against homosexuals in general, including those who can work hard as professional athletes. Hears infamously said he wouldn’t have Michael Sam, the possible first openly gay player in the NFL, in his locker room.

All of this is yet another reminder that sport can be, has been, and often continues to be an agent of the opposite of what is celebrated: regression, not progress. Dungy is not at the forefront of social change in the sports world, despite his historic achievement as the first black head coach. lead a team to a Super Bowl championship.

In fact, in March he plans to stay with the brand as a speaker at a men’s conference called Men’s Advance 2023. It is headed by evangelical Christian pastor Andrew Wommack, who argued two years ago that “homosexuality is three times worse than smoking. We should put a label on their foreheads: ‘This can be dangerous to your health.’ ”

Dungy should know that going ahead with that appearance could be dangerous for his career.

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