Super Bowl winning Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy has created another God and faith flap. The first was when he made his over the top genuflection to God after his Super Bowl win. It seemed that he was not simply expressing an act of grateful faith but engaging in a bit of fundamentalist proselytizing. This time he's taking heat for agreeing to speak at the Indiana Family Institute's gala March 20 fund raising banquet. Dungy's appearance, and the controversy, almost certainly will guarantee that ticket sales will soar through the roof. Dungy has the right to lend his name to a cause that he obviously believes in. But he's trying to have it both ways. He says that he has taken no position on the same sex marriage controversy.
Dungy, however, didn't win championships and Super Bowls by ignoring fine details. He well knows that IFI is a leading attack dog against gay marriage, and indeed gay rights. It backs state measures that outlaw same sex marriage, as well as a constitutional amendment to ban it. The IFI publicly boasts that it will work with Christian groups across the country to put more measures on state ballots in 2008 that ban same sex marriage. The hefty cash that Dungy will fill IFI's coffers with when he speaks will help make that possible. This is raw, bigoted politics and it has little to do with Dungy's professed goal of strengthening the family. Dungy should come clean and not mask his fervent opposition to same sex marriage behind his trademark stoic silence. Of course, if he did that he'd take even more heat for mixing faith and politics. Dungy is much too shrewd for that.
His endorsement of bigotry, under the guise of touting family values, is no surprise. Polls have shown that more blacks than whites condemn gay marriage. The issue of gay marriage pricks the social conservatism of many blacks. There was no loud chorus of condemnation when Dungy's fellow gridiron mate, the late Green Bay Packers superstar Reggie White made offensive remarks in 1997 about gays in a speech to the Wisconsin legislature. Nor when ex pro basketball star Tim Hardaway made his recent foot-in-the-mouth slur of gays.
Many black ministers wave the Bible and rail against homosexuality as the defiler of faith and family values. In 2003 the conservative Virginia based Alliance for Marriage corralled a few black churchmen, some with stellar civil rights credentials such as Walter Fauntroy, to back its drive for a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage. Fauntroy's civil rights and Democratic Party credentials are impeccable. He marched and went to jail with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and was a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus. He not only endorsed the group's drive for a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage, he was a leading Alliance board member. His name on the masthead of the Alliance, which is a stalking horse in the conservative family values war, was a coup for the GOP.
Bush took full advantage of his new found allies. He aggressively courted black Christian fundamentalist groups, and showered prominent conservative mega black church ministers with bushels of faith based-initiative dollars. It paid big dividends. Black Christian groups gave Bush substantial backing in Ohio and Florida in the 2004 presidential election. That helped dump him back in the White House. The majority of blacks also voted for Ohio's same sex marriage ban amendment in 2004, and it passed handily.
From cradle to grave, many black men have believed and accepted the gender propaganda that real men talk and act tough, shed no tears, and never show their emotions. Whenever black men broke the prescribed male code of conduct and showed their feelings they were harangued as weaklings, and their manhood instantly questioned. That's the ultimate taboo in football, and Dungy is certainly at the top of the heap in the NFL. Pro football is the most homophobic, authoritarian, tradition bound of any major sport. It's an exclusively male preserve that's rife with sexism and misogyny. In every sense, it's America's main fake masculinity ritual of passage.
Football reinforces the prized male virtues of strength, toughness and aggression. The male fans that pack the stands engage in ritual male bonding. They identify with the players, assume their personality and have a socially approved outlet to act out aggression, often times against women. The staffs at some women's shelters have reported a spike in complaints of spousal abuse during the Super Bowl.
Civil rights leaders have vigorously denounced homophobia and urged support for gay rights. Liberal black church leaders have held two major national conferences to combat homophobia in the black churches. They remind blacks that many of the ultra-conservatives that opposed civil rights also opposed gay rights. Dungy's name as the headliner at the IFI's banquet is agonizing proof that civil rights leaders still face an uphill battle to convince blacks that tolerance doesn't begin and end with race.
Tony is too classy a guy not to know that.