NFL legend Tony Dungy slams Scientific American’s claim that violence in football disproportionately targets black people

"As a black man and former NFL player I can say this article is absolutely ridiculous," Dungy tweeted on Friday.

NFL legend Tony Dungy has hit out at Scientific American for a piece the magazine published claiming that black men in football are disproportionally affected by violence.

The former player and coach described the article, which uses Damar Hamlin's recent collapse on the field as a springboard for issues of violence against black men in football, as "ridiculous." 

"As a black man and former NFL player, I can say this article is absolutely ridiculous," Dungy tweeted on Friday.

The piece, written by socio-cultural anthropologist Tracie Canada, begins with a brief overview of Hamlin's collapse and subsequent hospitalization, before delving into the normalization of violence against black men that the NFL allegedly perpetuates.

"The ordinariness of men running into each other at full speed represents a normalized—even rationalized—violence that is routine to this American game," she states, going on to argue that because non-white men account for 70 percent of NFL players, black players are disproportionately affected.

She also claims that "coaches racially segregate athletes by playing position" in a way that places black athletes "at a higher risk during play."

As a former NFL coach for nearly 30 years, as well as an advocate for representation, social justice, and more coaching opportunities for black NFL players, it is safe to say that Dungy is an authority on coaching black players, therefore his refuting of this article's claims carries some weight.

Canada's piece cites the views of sociologist Billy Hawkins, who argues that the playing fields "are never theoretically far from plantation fields," as well as those of activist Harry Edwards, who claims that "like a piece of equipment, the black athlete is used."

She also claims that the continuation of college football during the first fall of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite campuses being mostly emptied of students, is an example of racism against black players.

"The NFL gains both culturally and financially from Black athletic performance," she says. "It is also a league that has exploited its Black players for decades."

"If we expect these quotidian gladiators to return to the field, structural shifts must occur so they are actually cared for in a way that respects their humanity, as men who just happen to play the game of football exceptionally well," she concludes.

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