As the NFL and the NFL Players Association continue to search for common ground on how to address protests during the national anthem, one Hall of Fame coach has offered his own solution.
Tony Dungy told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday that, if he were still coaching today, he would give members of his team some time during his own nationally televised press conferences to speak about issues that are important to their communities.
“As a coach, my challenge would be, well what’s the best way to help these guys get their message across?” the NBC Sports analyst said. “And the best way is not three minutes before the national anthem.”
When asked about how he would respond to players who argue that the protests bring a unique awareness to their causes, in part because the demonstrations make some people uncomfortable, Dungy said he would tell them: “Good, we can make people uncomfortable during the press conference.”
“You want to raise awareness, I’m going to give you a much bigger platform,” the former Indianapolis and Tampa Bay coach continued. “Instead of just 65,000 people at the stadium, I’m going to give you access to millions of people, and it’ll be re-run and you’ll be able to articulate exactly what your point is. … I think most guys would say that is a better way.”
Nearly two years after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee before a preseason game, protesting during the national anthem remains one of the NFL’s hot-button issues. President Trump has repeatedly slammed protesting players — and the league, overall — and claimed that the demonstrations are unpatriotic. Players have said they are a means of protesting racial inequality and police brutality.
Dungy said in an appearance with Fox News last week that he respects players who kneel during the anthem — “these guys are not unpatriotic,” he said — but he, personally, believes standing “is the way to go.”
He also said Thursday that he would be surprised if the man who sparked the wave of protests, Kaepernick, ever plays in the NFL again, explaining that it would take “a very special organization” to make such a move.
“Somebody who would take him and wouldn’t be worried about the public backlash, but also somebody who needed a quarterback. And that’s going to be hard to find,” he said.
As the NFL and the union continue discussions on the anthem issue, the key in Dungy’s mind is for the two sides to find a suitable vehicle for players to express themselves moving forward.
“We offered that up on NBC,” Dungy said. “We went to the NFL … (and) we said, ‘We’ll give you time during our Football Night in America every week if you want it, to talk about what these players are doing.’ And people don’t see that side of it. They see the kneeling and the protests, but they don’t see what they’re doing in the community to help raise awareness and help bridge that divide.
“We wanted to be that vehicle. They didn’t take us up on it, but we were there.”
Dungy has now been retired for nearly a decade and, despite Jon Gruden’s recent reemergence, he says he has no desire to return to the sidelines. The 62-year-old is happy with his role on NBC and recently authored a pair of children’s books with his wife, Lauren. He said the couple wrote “Austin Plays Fair” and “Maria Finds Courage” in part to feature diverse characters — something they found was lacking in other children’s books.
“We want to encourage kids to read,” Dungy said, “and obviously if they can read and see characters they can relate to, that helps.”
SOURCE: USA Today – Tom Schad