NFL Hall of Famer Tony Dungy had drawn the wrath of critics on the left for his remarks in support of fatherhood during an event promoting Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Responsible Fatherhood Initiative.”
Dungy, the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl title, spoke for about two minutes Monday about the importance of his own experience of being reared by a strong father, in contrast to so many of his players, The Federalist reported.
“I had a dad who was around me all the time and supported me, and I thought everyone was like that,” he said. “I got to my job at the National Football League, started interviewing our players, and I began to understand not everyone had that same blessing that I had.”
DeSantis’ initiative grants $70 million in state funds toward programs for male role models.
Dungy recalled that during his first year as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers he visited a prison with a pastor and was surprised to see so many “19- and 20- and 21-year-old kids who looked like my boys.” He asked the pastor how those boys got there.
“And he told me it’s not socioeconomic. It’s not racial. It’s not education. It’s none of that. Ninety-five percent of these boys did not grow up with their dad. And that hit me,” Dungy said.
Among the many who reacted to Dungy’s remarks was Keith Olbermann, the former ESPN and Fox Sports broadcaster and later MSNBC anchor, who called Dungy a “fascist political prop.”
A headline in Deadspin said “Tony Dungy is constantly used as a prop by bigots.”
The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill wrote on Twitter: “Fathers are extremely important, but yeah … that ain’t how this works.”
Dungy has responded to his critics on Twitter, but without apology. He pointed out that President Obama “said the same things almost verbatim” 14 years ago.
“I’m assuming people were outraged at him too,” Dungy said.
The former coach concluded: “I am serving the Lord, so I’ll keep supporting dads and families.”
Obama spoke about fatherhood in a feature with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. The CNN anchor said that becoming a father to two daughters gave Obama “the chance to be the kind of father he never had.”
See a segment of the CNN feature:
Sheriff Clarke: ‘It started with’ my dad
Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, in an interview with WND in 2020, said black leaders such as Al Sharpton are largely ignoring the devastating impact of the $22 trillion spent on welfare and poverty programs over the past 50 years that have had the unintended effect of fostering fatherless homes, with 75% of blacks born out of wedlock.
“The first thing we need to do is a self-examination of our black community. Leave white men out of this for now,” he said.
“Look at the cultural dysfunction, the growing underclass, the ineffective parenting, the fatherless homes, the school failure, dropping out of school early, joining gangs, drug and alcohol abuse, teenagers having kids,” he told WND.
Clarke acknowledged he was “blessed” to grow up in a two-parent household. He was reared by a veteran of combat in Korea and a mother who “provided the love as a stay-at-home mom for most of our young life.”
“My dad instilled a sense of discipline in me, and he taught me to respect authority, and it started with him,” Clarke said.
“He was my first authority figure.”
His father extended that authority to teachers and the parents down the street.
“They carried my dad’s authority when I was in the outside world,” said Clarke. “They knew, ‘All we’ve got to do if we’re having problems is get a hold of Mr. Clarke.'”
David Clarke Sr. was an airborne Army Ranger during the Korean war who served in a segregated unit.
The mostly intact black families of that generation “are the black people who had a beef,” the younger Clarke observed.
“They had a gripe, facing Jim Crow laws, facing other systemic racism in the country,” he said.
Nevertheless, his father didn’t express to his children any ill feelings.
“We never heard that from him – the white man this or the white man that,” Clarke said. “My dad taught me to overcome obstacles. When we had those conversations, he said, ‘Son, you’re going to have to overcome obstacles to compete in this doubly unfair world.'”
Clarke said the world is “unfair” today not because of racism but “because of the human condition.”