Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

The answer to racial strife? Tony Dungy and a Tampa forum offer theirs

TAMPA — In a previous life, Tony Dungy impulsively — almost petulantly — quit football.

Prior to his senior season at Parkside High in Jackson, Mich., Dungy and his best friend were strong candidates to be elected captains on a team that never previously had two African-American captains. Dungy was elected. His buddy wasn't.

"So I'm sure, I'm positive, that this is racism," Dungy said Thursday evening from the stage of The Crossing Church on Tampa's eastern fringe. "I believe the coach doesn't count the votes right because the school doesn't want two black captains."

So Dungy walked. His dad, one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, objected but let his son make up his own mind. Then Dungy's junior high assistant principal caught wind of what occurred.

"He said, 'Even if that's true, why would you let someone else take away something from you that you enjoy doing?'" Dungy recalled. "And if it hadn't been for him, I wouldn't be sitting here today."

The moral of Dungy's anecdote — meet in the middle of the racism issue for thought and discussion instead of standing defiantly in one corner — was at the crux of Thursday night's "Under Our Skin" forum on race and faith.

The Christian-themed event, moderated by ESPN anchor Sage Steele, attracted a handful of prominent sports names as well as a live crowd of roughly 400 and a live-stream audience. Many panelists cited Scripture when discussing solutions to the nation's ongoing issue with racial strife.

Dungy pointed to Christianity's "greatest commandment" (loving others as yourself).

READ: A police traffic stop story that might surprise you

Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson said, "The No. 1 thing I say we do as believers is pray."

NFL Today host James Brown, an ordained minister, said God has provided a "game plan" for tackling hatred and racism in his "playbook."

"The root cause of it all is sin," Watson said. "The world doesn't want to hear it, but it doesn't take a mental giant to figure it all out."

The forum's brainchild, Watson authored an impassioned Facebook post —- expressing anger, frustration, embarrassment, sadness and ultimately encouragement — in the Ferguson, Mo., aftermath.

The post has since attracted more than 860,000 "likes," and prompted Watson to write a book bearing the same title as Thursday night's forum.

"A lot of times, we see something that happens and we're not worried about the truth, we're worried about what corner we're gonna get in," Watson said. "Am I gonna get in that corner by the exit sign, or am I gonna get in that corner by this camera over here? And I'm not gonna get anywhere in the middle."

READ: Benjamin Watson's Facebook post

Others joining Watson for the 3-1/2-hour event were former Bucs running back Warrick Dunn, Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel, new USF coach Charlie Strong and former LSU women's soccer player (and New York Times bestselling author) Mo Isom.

They spoke of accountability, of listening to others with the intent of understanding instead of hastily responding. They urged listeners to remain engaged with the issue and to have dialogue with those in their "sphere of influence," instead of lashing out at strangers via social media.

And they warned of the dangers of being easily offended, which Brown called "the bait of Satan."

"I was embarrassed by the violent protests and the looting, and people burning people's cars because of what happened (in Ferguson)," Watson said.

"Now, can I condemn that and can I also say, 'You know what, I don't understand why it takes 17 bullets in Chicago to kill a black man on the street?' They can both be true. As black people and as white people, we need to look at truth for what it is. And it's not tainted by a certain perspective. It is what it is."

READ: USF coverage from Joey Knight

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

The answer to racial strife? Tony Dungy and a Tampa forum offer theirs 02/17/17 [Last modified: Friday, February 17, 2017 1:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the standing ovation from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute seemed proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) talks with reporters during a press conference before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.
  2. Rays vs. Cubs, 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Cubs

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM; 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays' Blake Snell poses for a picture during the team's photo day at baseball spring training in Port Charlotte, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Cubs game

    The Heater

    Chris Archer's night ended with his 11th loss, but he and the Rays should feel good about his six solid innings. After the forearm tightness scare in Chicago, he had two rough outings (15 hits, 11 runs, seven innings), so Tuesday was a reassuring rebound.

  4. At 6-8, Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov comes with, and needs, a high ceiling

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — When Hall of Famer Phil Esposito first saw Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov, he joked that the 6-foot-8 defenseman could reach the Amalie Arena ceiling.

    Lightning 6-foot-8 defenseman Oleg Sosunov competes in the preseason opener. Phil Esposito jokes that Sosunov can reach the ceiling at Amalie Arena.
  5. Jones: Rays' Kevin Cash doesn't mind following in Joe Maddon's steps

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — On this particular night, he's the other guy. He's like a talk-show guest scooted to the end of the couch. He is Kevin Cash. And the Rays manager is standing in the home dugout at Tropicana Field.

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Manager Kevin Cash (L) of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts to action during the game against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field on September 17, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images) 700012494