Tolerance is a two-way street

The Sports Brothers | 7/31/2014, 9 a.m.
Tolerance. By definition, it means "the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior ...


By definition, it means "the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with."

The last part of the definition is very telling “. . . behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.”

Our tolerance of different social issues is constantly being tested. We saw a classic example of that this past week in the world of sports.

As NFL training camps were opening last week, one former coach who usually isn't a lightning rod for controversy, and one current player who is trying to keep a low profile, found themselves the topic of many a conversation on talk radio and social media. 

An interview in the Tampa Tribune with Tony Dungy revealed that he would not have drafted Michael Sam, the NFL's first openly gay player, because of the distraction it would have brought. 

The comments were met with much controversy. Many people asked how can the man that tried to help Michael Vick, a convicted felon, bounce back from his prison term, feel this way about distractions from NFL players? Would Vick not be a distraction to any team that he signed with? The answer to me is easy. Vick, at the time, was a proven football player. Sam, at the time and now, hasn't proven anything yet in the NFL. Teams will always go with a proven distraction rather than an unproven one any time.

Dungy clarified his comments by saying “We were talking about draft and distractions and it was when the Oprah Winfrey show was talking about doing a reality show on Michael Sam and that’s when the discussion came out about distractions as related to draft choices.” 

Sam was a co-defensive SEC player of the year coming into this year’s draft. No player winning that award has ever been drafted lower than the fifth round until Sam was picked in the seventh round this year. Did Dungy say what many other teams were thinking? One could surmise that there were some teams that shared his sentiment, but masked that thought in NFL jargon and player size and speed talk. 

One of this country's greatest freedoms is freedom of speech. We may not like what a person has to say at times or at all, but we cannot deny them the right to speak their mind (tolerance I believe it's called) This goes for people for and against all issues. We are often asked for tolerance when it comes to gay issues, however, those who asked for the tolerance are not good at reciprocating the favor to those who have a difference of opinion whether it's religious, personal or a miseducated one.

Tony Dungy may not have gained many followers for stating that he wouldn't have drafted a reality series driven Michael Sam, and that's ok. Just as the NFL has shown that tolerance will let Michael Sam be a player in the league, society should show tolerance in letting Tony Dungy express his thoughts on Sam as a player and personality in the NFL.