NBC’s Tony Dungy, Mike Tirico should have known better
Posted On October 13, 2021
There is no reason to believe that Tony Dungy and Mike Tirico were less than sincere when they came to Jon Gruden’s defense last weekend, largely based on their years of personal experiences with him.
Tirico was Gruden’s broadcast partner on Monday Night Football, including at the time Gruden emailed Washington football team president Bruce Allen, using racist language to describe the president of NFL Players Association DeMaurice Smith. Dungy, who is now a broadcaster with NBC, predated Gruden as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It’s no surprise that these two failed to treat Gruden’s email about Smith as evidence of a larger fanaticism issue, as it didn’t match their personal experiences.
“I was with Jon at the time,” Tirico said. “Seven years as a Monday Night Football partner. I probably know Jon better than anyone in the league on a personal level. He said it right, he was ashamed of the comments in the email. ‘e-mail is bogus. But, my experience is similar to that of Tim Brown, who played for Jon and is a Hall of Fame catcher. He said he had never experienced or seen anything that sounds like Jon was racist in any way. That’s exactly my experience, those seven years of traveling, three days together on the road together every week. ”
Those words certainly sound naive at best after more emails full of homophobic and misogynistic language emerged in a New York Times report on Monday night, prompting Gruden to resign. And the reason Tirico and Dungy look so stupid today is that they allowed their assessment of Gruden to overshadow a fundamental truth about fanatics: most of them are good enough to hide their fanaticism.
It’s no surprise that Gruden hasn’t made racist statements about Tirico or Dungy, both of whom are black. Of course, Gruden wasn’t going to use homophobic slurs in the Raiders locker room where Carl Nassib is the first player on an NFL roster to turn out to be gay in his career. Obviously, one of the NFL’s broadcast partner’s biggest stars isn’t going to call Commissioner Roger Goodell vulgar names for female anatomy in public.
But that’s how bigotry works. It is seldom practiced when the fanatic thinks the targets of his words are watching them.
THE BOOT :Skechers drops Jon Gruden as brand ambassador
NANCY ARMOR:Getting rid of Jon Gruden was easy. How will the NFL take out other fanatics?
We see this error all the time, and especially in sports where a lot of the product is conditioned around the best qualities of the characters involved, including the players, coaches and even broadcasters.
Ultimately, however, we can’t assume that we know much about these people – what their beliefs are, what their biases are, and most importantly what kind of offensive things they send in emails to people. who are not going to take them out.
What Tirico and Dungy should be most ashamed of today is trying to suggest to a national television audience that their personal experiences with Gruden meant he was not racist despite the language about Smith. who was clearly and explicitly racist.
Dungy, in particular, dropped the ball when he said he accepted Gruden’s apology at face value without asking questions. “He said it wasn’t racially motivated. I have to believe it. I think it was an incident that took place 10 years ago. He apologized. I think we have to accept this apology and move on. “
No Tony, you don’t have to believe it – you wanted to believe it.
And what happens when otherwise rational people are invested in an obvious lie? It usually explodes on them.
Now that the truth is known to all, Dungy attempted to reverse his comments on Tuesday, tweeting that the Raiders were right to part ways with Gruden on the basis of an “apparent pattern of behavior” as opposed to the isolated incident that ‘he thought he was. discuss previously. Dungy also said that Gruden deserved to be forgiven if he showed “real remorse – and more importantly, changed his mindset and actions.”
Fair enough. Everyone’s perspective on forgiveness is personal, and Dungy’s is based on his deep Christian faith. We have seen several examples in sports where bigoted comments that have gone public have led people to real wake-up calls, such as Tim Hardaway who became an LGBTQ rights advocate after saying “I hate gay people” among other homophobic remarks during from a radio show in 2007.
Hopefully Gruden follows the same path and eventually realizes why the content of those emails was deeply flawed, though his “I never meant to hurt anyone” statement Monday night suggests he still has a ways to go.
It should also be a dose of reality for the broadcasters who carried the water from Gruden on Sunday evening.
It is impossible for most people to truly understand what kind of racism Tirico and Dungy have faced throughout their lives or how they now treat him as famous and privileged TV stars.
But they should have enough experience both in sport and in life to know that just because we don’t see someone’s fanaticism up close and personal doesn’t mean he’s not there. . Trying to whitewash it instead of considering what that might mean or considering that there might be more behind it wasn’t just a disservice to their audience, it was a misunderstanding of how this kind of fanaticism can be insidious.