Of David Tyree and evolving views

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After the New York Giants announced Tuesday that they had hired former wide receiver David Tyree as their director of player development, I wrote this, saying I thought it was a bad hire because of Tyree's publicly expressed views on gay marriage and homosexuality in general. I stand by what I wrote because professional sports teams operate in public and need to be cognizant of perception.

Hiring a player development director with such potentially harmful views as the ones Tyree expressed three years ago was an odd choice. That job puts Tyree in a position of influence and authority over players who might have legitimate fears about going to him for guidance, given his public comments. For that reason, I disagreed with the decision to hire him and still do.

Contrary to much of the breathless overreaction my post has received, nowhere in it did I call for Tyree's firing. Tyree has the right to pursue his career, the Giants have the right to hire the people they want to hire, and I have the right (actually, the professional obligation) to write critically about the things the Giants do when I disagree with them. I will continue to do so.

All of that said, anyone who cares about this issue on either side should absolutely read this story by Michael O'Keeffe in the New York Daily News. O'Keeffe spoke with Patrick Burke, the president of You Can Play. Burke told the Daily News that Tyree recently met with the organization's executive director, Wade Davis, and would continue talking with Davis in the future:

"There is nothing that can excuse the stuff he said three years ago," said Burke, whose organization battles homophobia in sports. “But we try to have conversations behind closed doors. Wade is impressed with David’s growth."

I'm all for growth. That is the point of what I wrote Tuesday and anything I've ever written about this issue. I think any conversation that helps move us in the direction of improved decency toward fellow human beings is one worth having, and kudos to Davis and Tyree for having such discussions.

On Tuesday, ESPN.com reached out to Tyree to offer him an opportunity to defend himself against the criticism, and he declined to do so. I don't want people to think we're not playing fair here. I also do think that, if Tyree's views have evolved in a more tolerant direction, it would be helpful to the overall discussion for him to express that as publicly as he once expressed his original views. But that's just my feeling on it, and he obviously isn't obligated to do so.

But he does have some work to do behind those closed doors of which Burke speaks.

If I were the Giants, I would think the important thing would be for the players with whom Tyree is working to know how he feels on these issues. If his views have evolved, he will need to find a way to make sure players who might not have felt welcome in his office based on his 2011 comments know they can feel welcome now. The job for which he was hired will put him in direct and important contact with a wide variety of young men, and if any of them had reason to feel that the team's director of player development was angrily prejudiced against them, that would be a shame.

But it sounds as though Tyree is working to make sure that is not the case, and if so, that's excellent.