Tony Dungy Says Athletes Have Responsibility to Use Their Platform to Influence Change for the Better


NBC Sports Analyst and former NFL player and coach, Tony Dungy spoke with the Fan Morning Show about race relations Wednesday morning.

As the country is seeing tension rising following the death of George Floyd while in police custody, the conversation started with what someone, who is not African-American, can do to help the country right now.

Dungy said the first step to improving things in our country is close to home. "I think the number one thing that we all can do right now is start with our family and just say, you know what, in our family here's how we're going to treat people. Here's how we're gonna do things. Here's how we're going to treat law enforcement. We're gonna do the right thing. And make sure that our kids and everybody in our household knows that and operates that way and shows them the right way.

"And then the next thing is, where is my sphere of influence? You guys are on the radio, you've got a sphere of influence. You can talk to people. Even a lot of us at work, in our neighborhoods... just having those conversations. Hey, we're gonna do the right thing. We're gonna empathize with other people and make sure that we're doing things properly. And then we can work on everything else and everybody else," he continued. "Those are the first two things we can do.

Tony said athletes have the responsibility to use their sphere of influence to help the community in times like this. "I think we all do, no question," he said. "I can remember, like it was yesterday, 1977 coming to Pittsburgh and making the team. Mr. Rooney, Art Rooney Sr., talked to every single rookie. And he would tell you 'Welcome to the team. We're glad to have you. You're representing Pittsburgh now and you've got a responsibility. We want you to be here. We want you to be part of the community. We want you to make Pittsburgh a better place to live.'

"And that's what he told every single one of us. And I took that to heart. And that doesn't just mean in the good times. And that doesn't mean just, hey let's go visit a community center or let's do some work with kids. When we have situations like this, athletes have a big role. They have a big voice and we can step up and be part of the solution. We can be empathetic. Yes, I absolutely do think they have that responsibility."

When football season starts, Dungy hopes people will be more understanding than perhaps they were in the recent past if someone shows a quiet moment of protest, such as kneeling.

"I hope so. To me it does go back to three years ago and we had some athletes trying to use their platform and they were doing it peacefully. And they said, We want to use these two minutes when we've got the national spotlight on us to showcase some things and to talk about things in our community. And it was shot down. And it was compromised because people said, oh well this is anti-flag, this is anti-patriotism. It wasn't that at all. This is exactly what they were talking about. And I think we just need to understand that and say you know what, if these guys are trying to use their voice peacefully, maybe we should pay attention.

"And I don't think the leadership in our country did that. And I'm not saying that's the whole problem today, but that's part of the problem. When people feel like their voices aren't heard, it is problematic."

With all of that said, if an NFL team were to bring in Colin Kaepernick, would it be looked at as an opportunity that Kaepernick has waited for and deserved or would it be looked at with some cynicism?

"I don't want to say cynical, but I think that well, now people understand and maybe they do understand and it's better late than never. I think we've got to try to have that understanding before it comes to this. Before it gets to violent ways. And we've got to do a better job of listening," he said.

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