John Amaechi was a guest on Dan Le Batard’s radio show yesterday. After discussing LeBron James and Emmanuel Mudiay, talk shifted to Tony Dungy. Amaechi, who came out of the closet several years after retiring from the NBA and is an Atheist, was very critical of Dungy’s comments.
Amaechi: This Dungy thing is not surprising. He’s going to have this weird line, apparently just to keep himself in the news. People who still think being gay is interesting are just so nineteenth century at this point. It’s not a factor. If you’re interested in getting the very best out of your team, then what you want is for every single person on that team to be able to be free to be themselves. Now, are there limitations to that within the context of a team? Of course, but what you do is you tolerate the variance because of the benefit that it brings.
Le Batard: Here’s the thing, though, John. I thought that by themselves — the initial comments, and he’s since clarified in a very long statement — I thought the comments at first were fairly benign. A lot of teams did pass on Michael Sam, it would appear on merit. I thought they were benign comments, and it creates a hysteria. Am I wrong when I say that?
Amaechi: I don’t think they were benign comments. I think they were calculated to be easily walked back, which is exactly what he’s done now. He’s unsaid all of the things that he said, even though those things were apparently not offensive in the first place.
Le Batard: Well, he’s reacting to the reaction, though, isn’t he?
Amaechi: Yeah, which is fair enough. People are always talking about freedom of speech, but it’s not freedom from rebuke. When people say stupid things, they should be rebuked. And the fact is that his opinion about gay people is formed by a Bronze Age book. I don’t know anybody else who lives by a Bronze Age book in other contexts of their life. Because, if they did, they’d find driving really uncomfortable on their stone wheels. Flintstones is where we’d be. Come on. It’s so childish, almost. If you’re a coach — an elite coach — and you seriously say you wouldn’t take the very best player because you think it’s a distraction, then you’re not an elite coach. You’re just playing.
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Le Batard: This is the question. It can be filed under he’s not an elite player. The reason I think the comments are benign, is all things being equal — in the seventh round of the draft, and when you get there there’s a lot of equal talent — I would understand why a coach wouldn’t want whatever the distraction is. Whether it’s this one or another one, and they can take a player who is equal who’s not a distraction.
Amaechi: I’ve had this conversation with you, and about what happens when you come out if there’s another player and you’re not a superstar. But I would also dispute the fact that he was passed over in the first place as a function simply of his skill. I saw his [subpar combine performance], but the truth is nobody else who has been SEC Defensive Player of the Year has ever gone this low. Unless it’s just a coincidence — it just happens that he’s gay and he’s gone lower by seven rounds (note: none have gone later than the second round in the past) than any other person who’s been DPOY — that doesn’t seem like a rational, logical line to me.
“People get a firestorm when they lie,” Amaechi finished, after Le Batard asked if any ostensibly un-PC comments about gay athletes would lead to this type of story and effectively silence all discourse. “And when they lie inelegantly. If Tony Dungy said, ‘Look, I believe in a book. I have faith. By definition, this makes me irrational. But my irrational faith leads me to believe that this person is immoral somehow, and that makes me uncomfortable’ then he’ll be lauded by the religious right. And the left will find it laughable, but at least it’s honest … there’s no implication he just told the truth … What he said instead, and what everybody says instead, was a squirming mass of words to hide their actual beliefs, and there’s no honesty or honor in that.”