The Common Good

White House Invites Retired NFL Coach Dungy to Join Advisory Council

Date: April 1, 2009

Retired NFL coach Tony Dungy has been invited to join the White House’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, reported a spokesman for the former Indianapolis Colts head coach.

“He was invited and has not yet made a decision about whether or not he will accept,” Todd Starowitz, a publicist at Dungy’s book publisher, Tyndale House Publishers, told The Christian Post on Tuesday.

In total, there will be 25 members on the council, composed of religious and secular leaders and scholars from different backgrounds. Members of the council, each appointed to a one-year term, so far include prominent figures such as Dr. Frank S. Page, president emeritus of the Southern Baptist Convention; the Rev. Jim Wallis, president and executive director of Sojourners; Pastor Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, a Church Distributed; and Richard Stearns, president of World Vision.

Only 15 of the council’s 25 members have so far been confirmed to serve with the remaining 10 expected to be announced later this week, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The council will be responsible for advising the new White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships on how to direct government funds to religious and neighborhood groups engaged in social service work.

Regarding the invitation to Dungy, Peter Elliot, a veteran sports journalist who lived in Indianapolis for the past 10 years, said Obama made the right decision in tapping Dungy.

“His demeanor and adherence to living out his faith in all that he does makes him an instant cornerstone for the advisory council,” wrote Elliot, a United Methodist, in his blog Wednesday.

The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, however, said news of Dungy’s invitation was “unwelcome.”

“This unnecessary body already has plenty of people on it who are way off the mark on civil rights and liberties. Dungy will be another,” he commented on the multi-faith site Beliefnet.com.

“Dungy's fund-raising for the James Dobson-affiliated ‘Indiana Family Institute’ and his unequivocal opposition to same-sex marriage based on his view that God opposes it make him an unlikely candidate for useful discussion of faith based partnerships and civil rights, one of the key issues the panel will hammer out,” Lynn added.

When the revamped White House office was unveiled in February, President Obama said it would work with nonprofit organizations "both secular and faith-based" and would help them determine how to make a bigger impact in their cities, learn their obligations under the law and cut through government red tape.

Obama said the top priority of the office will be "making community groups an integral part of our economic recovery and poverty a burden fewer have to bear when recovery is complete."

Dungy, the first African American head coach to win the Super Bowl, is widely known for his outspoken Christian faith, which has influenced his work on and off the field. Aside from winning six division titles and appearing in three conference championship games, Dungy was involved with a number of charitable organizations and urged players and coaches to get involved in community work, too.

After announcing his retirement earlier this year, the championship winning coach said he was not sure exactly what new goals he’d be pursuing but was looking forward to devoting his extra time to his family and the social causes he embraces.

"I think I've got a responsibility to be home a little bit more, be available to my family a little bit more and do some things to help make our country better," Dungy said. "I don't know what that is right now, but we'll see."

Some of the charitable organizations that Dungy has been involved with in recent years include the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Athletes in Action, Mentors for Life, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Clubs, the Prison Crusade Ministry, and All Pro Dad.

He has also worked with Basket of Hope, the Black Coaches Association National Convention, Indiana Black Expo, the United Way of Central Indiana, and the American Diabetes Association.