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. Kentucky recruit, former Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox among top prospects for 2018 NBA Draft

    Preps

    Less than 24 hours after the NBA Draft, analysts have already begun looking ahead to 2018.

    Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox finishes a layup during the McDonald's All-American game in March at the United Center in Chicago. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Illinois is recruiting a 10-year-old. Where will Lovie Smith be by the time the kid can sign?

    Blogs

    Today in ridiculous recruiting news, Lovie Smith's Illinois football team offered a scholarship to a 10-year-old.

  3. Rays series preview: Who are the Orioles?

    Blogs

    After an off day Thursday, the Rays remain at Tropicana Field for a three-game series against the AL East rival Orioles. Here's the information you need to know about Baltimore before the action kicks off.

    Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman, left, has posted the highest ERA of his career this season, while catcher Welington Castillo, center, has slumped recently.
  4. Harmeling first woman to receive lifetime honor at Sneaker Soiree in Tampa

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — For the last quarter-century, she has combined passion and meticulousness to keep the Gasparilla Distance Classic humming and evolving. Indefatigable and detailed, Susan Harmeling braces for every race-weekend contingency.

    Susan Harmeling gives a speech after accepting an award  during the annual Sneaker Soiree, at TPepin's Hospitality Centre, Thursday, June 22, 2017.
  5. Morning after off day: Rays ready for slumping O's

    Blogs

    The Rays will attempt tonight to do what so far has been impossible this season: climb four games above .500.

    The Rays expect Evan Longoria to be back in the lineup for tonight's game.