Even a half-century removed, the memories are vivid for Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy. As a 12-year-old, he was sitting in his childhood living room, in the small automotive town of Jackson, Michigan, watching the 1968 Summer Olympics with his father, Wilbur. American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos were on the medal stand, their black-gloved fists raised in protest of racial injustice.
"All of these African-Americans at the time were debating whether we should stand for the national anthem and my dad says, 'What do you think is going to make the situation better?'" Dungy recalls. "He was a veteran, too, and he didn't say 'No, you should always stand,' he just said, 'What do you think? What is this doing? Is it helping the situation? If you think it's helping things and making things better, then do it. But don't do it because everyone else is.' That wasn't the answer I wanted. I'm like, 'Dad, tell me what to do.'
"So, I think that comes through in the book."
The book is Austin Plays Fair, which Dungy co-wrote with his wife, early childhood education specialist Lauren, along with Maria Finds Courage. The two children's books released this past August, the first in what they hope is a lengthy series with a third slated for a spring release. The couple, who have 10 children of their own, and usually more in their foster care, first discussed writing children's books when Tony was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the late 1990s, and many of the wives of the players and coaches were part of an outreach program reading to local elementary classes every Tuesday during the season.
"I kept noticing the books needed more diversity and stronger story lines," Lauren says. "I wanted the kids to walk away with a message, that it's important to have integrity, to be fair and honest. Tony and I talked about it--that kids needed to see characters they can relate to and we wanted strong parents as role models."
Few NFL coaches have ever been considered more of a role model than Dungy, who following a three-year playing career as a defensive back with the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers embarked on what became a 28-year coaching run, the last 13 of which were spent in charge of the Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts. His success was almost unparalleled: He was the youngest assistant coach and coordinator in league history, at 25 and 28 years old, respectively, and the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl...