Tony Dungy apologizes after spreading debunked anti-transgender conspiracy theory

The NBC commentator has a long history of pushing harmful anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric while invoking his religious beliefs

Tony Dungy on the NBC Sports set
Tony Dungy tried pushing a widely debunked and harmful conspiracy theory this week that's been used against transgender and nonbinary youth. (Kirby Lee/USA Today)

Pro Football Hall of Famer and NBC analyst Tony Dungy apologized on Saturday after he posted a tweet this week pushing a debunked conspiracy theory about transgender and nonbinary children.

Dungy replied to a tweet from The Daily Wire on Wednesday that had a video of a Minnesota lawmaker advocating for schools in the state to put menstrual products in boys’ bathrooms, too. This inclusion effort would be done to allow all people who menstruate access to the proper hygiene products, and it is a growing trend across the country.

Dungy replied to the tweet by pushing a widely debunked conspiracy theory that claimed school districts in the United States were “putting litter boxes in school bathrooms for students who identify as cats.”

This, obviously, is not true. The hurtful theory has been debunked repeatedly in recent months.

Dungy deleted his tweet several hours later. He then apologized on Saturday, something he said he first issued on Thursday but “not everyone saw it.”

“I saw a tweet yesterday and I responded to it in the wrong way,” he wrote. "As a Christian I should speak in love and in ways that are caring and helpful. I failed to do that and I am deeply sorry.”

Dungy’s initial tweet drew intense backlash. The conspiracy theory is being used by people as a political talking point to harm transgender and nonbinary youth. This type of discrimination is on the rise. In a new poll from The Trevor Project this week, 45% of transgender and nonbinary youth said they have been bullied online as a result of this rhetoric or policies, and more than half said they seriously considered suicide.

Dungy has a history of discriminatory rhetoric against the LGBTQ+ community while using his religion as an excuse to do so. He also spoke at a March for Life event in Washington, D.C. on Friday and invoked Damar Hamlin — the Buffalo Bills safety who collapsed on the field this season — while advocating for an end to abortion, which was a weird leap to make.

Despite his tweet this week, Dungy will still be on the air for NBC’s playoff coverage this weekend. He will participate in the network’s pregame and halftime shows for the Kansas City Chiefs’ matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday.