Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy clarified his comments about not wanting to draft openly gay St. Louis Rams defensive end Michael Sam.
"On Monday afternoon while on vacation with my family, I was quite surprised to read excerpts from an interview I gave several weeks ago related to this year's NFL Draft, and I feel compelled to clarify those remarks.
"I was asked whether I would have drafted Michael Sam and I answered that I would not have drafted him. I gave my honest answer, which is that I felt drafting him would bring much distraction to the team. At the time of my interview, the Oprah Winfrey reality show that was going to chronicle Michael's first season had been announced.
"I was not asked whether or not Michael Sam deserves an opportunitiy to play in the NFL. He absolutely does.
"I was not asked whether his sexual orientation should play a part in the evaluation process. It should not.
"I was not asked whether I would have a problem having Michael Sam on my team. I would not.
"I have been asked all of those questions several times in the last three months and have always answered them the same way -- by saying that playing in the NFL is, and should be, about merit.
"The best players make the team, and everyone should get the opportunity to prove whether they're good enough to play. That's my opinion as a coach. But those were not the questions I was asked.
"What I was asked about was my philosophy of drafting, a philosophy that was developed over the years, which was to minimize distractions for my teams.
"I do not believe Michael's sexual orientation will be a distraction to his teammates or his organization.
"I do, however, believe that the media attention that comes with it will be a distraction. Unfortunately we are all seeing this play out now, and I feel badly that my remarks played a role in the distraction.
"I wish Michael Sam nothing but the best in his quest to become a star in the NFL and I am confident he will get the opportunity to show what he can do on the field.
"My sincere hope is that we will be able to focus on his play and not on his sexual orientation."
Dungy's statement is in response to controversy over his previous comments in a Tampa Bay Tribune interview with Ira Kaufman on July 20:
Dungy quipped, "I wouldn't have taken him. Not because I don't believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn't want to deal with all of it...It's not going to be totally smooth...things will happen."
Kaufman wrote two days later that the public reaction to what Dungy said was mixed:
"On Monday, Dungy's remarks were widely discussed on social media and national radio and television programs. Some commentators were supportive of his remarks, while others were disappointed.
"On ESPN, Keith Olbermann nominated Dungy as today's 'Worst Person in the Sports World.'
"'Tony Dungy just admitted that Tony Dungy wouldn't be skilled enough to coach to deal with the distraction of doing the right thing,' Olbermann said Monday night.
"On a national conference call Tuesday, new Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks, who was coached by Dungy for six years in Tampa, was asked about the controversy.
"'He's probably saying what 31 other teams were probably thinking, because they didn't draft (Sam), for whatever reason,' Brooks said."
Nevertheless, Sam said he has "a great respect for Dungy," per NFL.com's Dan Hanzus:
"Thank God he wasn't St. Louis Rams coach. But I have a great respect for Dungy, and everyone in America is entitled to their own opinions.
"I don't really care what people are coming up and talking about. My job is to make this team, that's my number one priority."