The day the Indianapolis Colts beat New England in the nail-biter that will take them to the Superbowl next Sunday I posted a cheer on behalf of a lot of loyal and admiring LGBT fans. I firmly share their deep admiration for coach Tony Dungy and his efforts. But I also share their dismay and disappointment over the news that in March Tony will be the guest of honor at the Indiana Family Institute's special event dinner.
The IFI is one of the leading proponents of SJR7, the proposed Indiana Constitutional amendment on marriage rights, and other legislative efforts to deny equal rights to LGBT folks. Under the guise of protecting traditional family values, it helps spread misinformation that fosters bigitory toward our community and our own families. Tony is undoubtedly a very fine father and devoted family man, and for that he deserves high praise. His refusal to resort to shouting, cursing and other demeaning tactics many other NFL coaches use is extremely commendable. And I think most in our community take pride in the fact that either he or his colleague Lovie Smith, coach of the Bears, will become the first African American coach in NFL history to win a Superbowl.
But Tony's prominent appearance before this group, as a representative of a major sports institution in Indianapolis, sends a chilling message. All of us shared the grief that Tony and his family experienced a year ago when his son took his own life. I understand that stories about a connection to sexual orientation were unfounded, and I would defend Tony's right to consider that a private matter. Still, there is an irony many of us in the LGBT community know well: The number of LGBT youth who have taken their lives because of self-hatred and homophobia is much above the national average. Organizations of the IFI variety cannot escape the fruits of their helping to foster the myths and resulting bigotry which contribute to those grim statistics. Surely Tony doesn't in any way support that; so why is he lending his celebrity and role model status to such a group?
And what does it say about his boss Jim Irsay and the Colt's front office's attitude toward our segment of its fan base? Take a look at the IFI announcement again. Tony appears fully engaged on the sidelines, wearing a blue Colts cap and jacket. The implied message of Colts and NFL corporate endorsement of the IFA's views is a very unsettling one.
I believe that Tony is a good man. Although many of us may not share the view that God has a direct interest in football games and losses (as his postgame references to Jesus seem to imply) we still respect his Christian faith and his attempts to live by it.
Still, somebody has fumbled the ball here.......and a timeout and careful replay of the decision ought to be in order. I continue to say, as we go to Miami for the big one: GO COLTS......but as to Tony's scheduled apperance before the Indiana Family Institute, please look carefully downfield before the ball is thrown.
2/7/07 Editor's note: You can find more on this story on bilerico.com at the following links:
You can find the original story at: Tony Say It Isn't So!
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