NBC analyst and former NFL head coach Tony Dungy has come under fire this week for highlighting Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles’ Christian faith.
But Dungy, an outspoken Christian himself, has defended himself in the midst of the criticism, arguing that since Foles’ faith is an important part of his life, it’s a topic worth covering.
Following the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory on Sunday, Dungy said Foles — who was named MVP of the game — stated last last week he thought God put him in Philadelphia for a “special moment.”
The next day, Dungy posted a picture of his son, Justin, surrounded by a group of Eagles players, including Foles. Dungy said he had found the players “in a room by themselves—praying and thanking God” after winning the Super Bowl.
It didn’t take long for Twitter users to criticize Dungy for using his platform to promote his Christian beliefs.
However, Dungy had a response ready to address the critics. Not only did he note that his job is to express his opinions, but he also said he stands by his belief that Foles performed so well in part due to his Christian faith.
“NBC pays me to express my opinion,” he wrote. “And it was my opinion that Nick Foles would play well because his Christian faith would allow him to to play with confidence. And that he’s a good QB. I think I was right on both counts.”
Dungy didn’t stop there.
After a Houston sports writer suggested that Dungy’s comments should not be “part of football analysis,” the former head coach pointed out that it’s his job to report on what the quarterback tells him.
“If he credited a coach for saying ‘Stay calm and be confident’ that’s good,” Dungy said. “But if he tells me Christ says that to him I shouldn’t report it???”
In another tweet, he explained why he thinks it’s important to talk about how Foles believes God put him in Philadelphia. His reasoning extended beyond sports.
“This was much bigger than the score of a football game. How many young boys are going to look up to Nick Foles because of what he did in this moment?” he asked. “When they do they’ll see something about LIFE!”
Other users took issue with what they saw as an implication that Foles won the Super Bowl because his faith is stronger than that of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, whose team was defeated by the Eagles.
But Dungy clarified this was not at all what he was trying to say.
“Didn’t say anything about Brady. Didn’t make any comparisons. Didn’t say God wanted the Eagles to win. Said Foles’ faith lin Christ played a role in him playing so well,” he said.
Social media users weren’t the only ones to criticize Dungy.
In a column for The Big Lead, Kyle Koster wrote that he has no issue with Dungy expressing his personal faith on his own time. But he thinks there is a problem when Dungy uses his role as an NBC analyst to push his beliefs.
“Dungy expressing his beliefs on his personal time and platform is one thing. And even if I disagree with him sometimes, I appreciate his candor and willingness to open himself up for criticism,” Koster wrote.
“But when his beliefs seep into his analyst role — either unintentionally or otherwise — they should be checked, both by NBC and the public.”
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