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. Rays Tales: The stories behind Corey Dickerson's ascension

    The Heater

    The 25 pounds DH/LF Corey Dickerson lost during the winter through diet and exercise are considered the primary reason for his ascension to one of the American League's most productive hitters, going into the weekend leading in hits, multi-hit games and total bases, and ranked in the top five in average, runs and …

    Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) connects for a sac fly, scores Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Steve Pearce (28) in the fourth inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
  2. For starters: Rays at Twins, looking for another with Odorizzi starting

    Blogs

    UPDATE, 12:45: Cash said Robertson was taking better swings Friday and so he wanted to move him up today, liking the idea of having three straight right-handers vs. a LHP they don't know much about. ... Souza was still smiling this morning about his failed dive attempt last night, and the reaction it got. .. The …

  3. Why the Lightning would consider trading Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — This summer, the Lightning could trade one of its most dynamic young players ever.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) celebrates with his team on the bench after beating Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) to score his second goal of the period and to tie the score at 4 to 4 during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Monday evening (03/27/17).
  4. Why the Lightning should keep Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    Keep him.

    Jonathan Drouin is live bait. The Lightning is ready to run the hook through him and cast him out there again. Drouin has enough talent for the Lightning to meet some defensive needs in a deal.

    Keep him.

    Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin celebrates after beating Los Angeles Kings goalie Peter Budaj during the first period of Tuesday's win in Tampa. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  5. This Tampa Bay Lightning wing rides the newest wave of fan interaction

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There are photos of Lightning fan Shaun Egger as a toddler at center ice at the then-Thunderome, aka Tropicana Field. He's played in the Lightning's high school hockey league for Palm Harbor University. But his closest personal encounter with players had been waving through a crowd after a training camp …

    Tampa Bay Lightning player J.T. Brown wears his anti UV glasses as he talks over the headset with a hockey fan while they play against each other on line in an XBOX NHL video game in Brown's game room at his home in south Tampa. The fan chose to be the Washington Capitals and Brown, of course, was the Tampa Bay Lightning. Brown interacts with fans through video game systems as he streams the games live on Twitch with plans for the proceeds to go to charity.