The return of David Tyree to the Giants as their new Director of Player Development began innocently enough, just a feel-good item to fill a news cycle in training camp. Tyree had worked in a similar capacity in the league office for a couple of years after injuries ended his career in New York, and the opportunity to bring the Jersey native and Super Bowl XLII hero back into the fold seemed only fitting.
“I’m overwhelmed with joy,” said Tyree, whose responsibilities will focus on ensuring that players are prepared for the world outside of football, from money management to keeping them out of trouble. “I guess you could say it’s a second homecoming. I’m just thrilled to get in here and serve these players.”
On Tuesday night, though, the hiring grew into something a lot larger.
Just hours after Tyree was introduced, the Human Rights Campaign released a statement blasting the decision, citing the wide receiver’s continuous and outspoken criticism of gay marriage. In 2011, Tyree claimed that he would trade in his famous helmet catch against the Patriots if it meant that homosexuals would not be allowed to marry, and over the years he’s echoed those sentiments in interviews and on social media — including one tweet saying, “there is no scientific evidence to support the claim of being born gay”.
“The idea that someone can change their sexual orientation or gender identity is ludicrous, and the New York Giants are risking their credibility by hiring someone who publicly advocates this junk science,” HRC president Chad Griffin wrote.
Tyree declined to comment, and the Giants released a statement explaining that he was simply expressing a personal opinion, not one held by the organization. But this doesn't seem likely to go away any time soon — especially considering Michael Sam has turned the tolerance of NFL locker rooms (or lack thereof) into a red-hot issue.
And while the “But his First Amendment rights!” backlash to the backlash is inevitable (which guarantees only freedom from arrest, not freedom from consequences), this is an uncharacteristically tone-deaf move from Big Blue. Tyree may have simply been expressing an opinion, but he’s now in a position of prominence in the organization. According to Tom Coughlin, he'll be in meetings and on the practice field every day. It's a very poor message to send to your employees, particularly those who may have felt emboldened to live their lives openly after Sam helped clear the way.