NBC Sports analyst Tony Dungy suggested on-air that Nick Folesplayed so well during the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl run due in part to his Christian faith. Foles, an aspiring pastor and Liberty University student, has long worn his faith on his sleeve.
After Super Bowl LII ended, Dungy sent two tweets. You’ll notice a common theme.
Dungy, an outspoken Christian himself, early this morning responded to criticism that he shouldn’t have brought religion into his analysis.
Let’s ignore all the bright flashing lights reminding us to never discuss religion and politics and dive right in, shall we?
Dungy is absolutely correct that NBC pays him for his opinions. And the facts of the case here suggest that Foles’ confidence is just as responsible for his on-field success as anything else. Religious and non-religious minds alike can agree that a sense of calm and self-assurance go a long way in this world. Whether that be a belief in a higher power, a steadfast commitment to a spouse, or the transformative nature of parenthood, security in one’s place in the universe is a net positive.
When viewed through that lens, Dungy’s assertion isn’t as controversial as it may seem. The problem, though, is that one must consider the source of such a narrative when assessing merits. And it would be naive to think Dungy trumpeting the benefits of faith is something being done from a distance while only wearing an analyst’s hat.
His long history of evangelizing must be weighed. Would Dungy have credited another faith for grounding a quarterback? Would he have credited the birth of a child or a social awakening? I am not passing judgement, or suggesting he wouldn’t have. But it’s worth wondering.
Dungy, a very public and proud Christian, pushed a narrative favorable to Christianity that may or may not be true. His possible agenda should come into play here, just as it would if an outspoken vegan was trumpeting Tom Brady’s revolutionary diet or an outspoken atheist crediting Arian Foster’s worldview for his performance.
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. But when his beliefs seep into his analyst role — either unintentionally or otherwise — they should be checked, both by NBC and the public.