Colts Coach Favors Obama

by Nathan L. Gonzales August 11, 2008 · 12:05 AM EDT

Once criticized for speaking to a conservative Christian group, Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy favors Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in the presidential election.

“I was an Obama guy in the primaries,” Dungy said in an interview with Kenny Mayne in the Aug. 11 issue of ESPN the Magazine. “I remember hearing Dr. King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech when I was 7, but I never thought I’d see an African-American with an opportunity to win the presidency. So this has been stunning to me.”

“I haven’t made up my mind, but I’m definitely leaning toward Obama,” Dungy said.

On one level, the preference isn’t surprising, since both men are high-profile African-Americans. And with Indiana being talked about as a potential battleground state, few individuals are more popular than Dungy outside the sport of basketball.

But the coach’s nod doesn’t come without a potential downside for Obama.

Back in March 2007, Dungy was criticized, particularly by gay activists, for accepting an award from the Indiana Family Institute, specifically because of their opposition to same-sex marriage. In advance of his appearance, some individuals wanted the Super Bowl-winning coach do disavow the conservative Christian group’s views. But Dungy, who isn’t shy about his faith, did precisely the opposite.

“I’m on the Lord’s side, and I appreciate IFI for the stance their taking, and I embrace that stance, okay, and that’s important,” Dungy said in his speech.

“Family is important, and that’s what we’re trying to support. We’re not anti anything else, we’re not trying to downgrade anyone else, hate anyone else, but we’re trying to promote the family, family values, the Lord’s way, just like I’m trying to win on the football field the Lord’s way. No different,” Dungy added.

Obama already has strained relations with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, whether it is rumors about him choosing former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn (D) to be his running mate or campaigning with gospel entertainer Donnie McClurkin in South Carolina early in the primary season.