Wednesday, March 28, 2007

What does "on behalf of" mean?

According to Cyd Ziegler Jr. at Outsports, Tony Dungy accepted an award from the Indiana Family Institute "on behalf of the Colts organization."

This is problematic. Tony Dungy, private citizen, has every right to express his views on whatever he wants (and we're free to examine those views and disagree with him). Tony Dungy, in his position of head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, is still also private citizen Tony Dungy, and he still has the right to express his views on same-sex marriage.

But is Tony Dungy in a position to accept an award from a private organization "not only on behalf of our family, but on behalf of the Colts organization"? Unless the Colts organization told him he could, he probably is not in a position to do so. He is co-opting the entire Colts organization into his viewpoint.

In Minnesota, this was an issue a few years ago. Then Viking head coach Mike Tice introduced President (and presidential candidate) George W. Bush. He even gave him a Viking jersey. Of course nobody would take away Tice's right to his political views, nor expression of those political views. But as coach of the team, he represents the team in certain ways (if he hadn't given the Viking jersey, perhaps you could say that he wasn't representing the team in that case. But he did give the jersey, and so he was). And if he represents the team, the organization, and the owner, in some ways does he not represent the fans? Fans of a team associate and identify with the team, so it is possible to think so.

I assume there are gay Colts fans; how do they feel about Dungy accepting IFI's award "on behalf of the Colts organization"? Because Dungy is accepting an award from an anti-gay group, and he is getting it in part for his views and action. And so IF he is accepting it on behalf of the Colts, THEN the Colts are getting the credit for the anti-gay stance. If you're a gay Colts fan (or even just a Colts fan who believes in equal rights for gay people), how do you feel about rooting for an organization awarded for an anti-gay stance? In fact, the Colts have not taken an anti-gay stance, but when Tony Dungy accepts the award "on behalf of the Colts organization," he is attempting to place the Colts in an anti-gay stance. If I were running the Colts organization, this would upset me. I would not punish Dungy for being active in expressing his own views; however, I would want to make it very clear to Dungy that he is not to blanket the entire Colts organization around him while expressing those views. Because by expressing these views, being given an award for these views, and then accepting the award "on behalf of the Colts organization," he is placing those views onto the Colts organization. Dungy has now essentially forced the Colts to respond.

That's a problem for an organization, for an employer, and for fans.


  1. This is a great post. I'm glad you were able to lend your voice to this issue.

  2. are you serious?? on behalf of means under the auspices of, in the name of, with the knowledge of, and actually that definition is pretty simple to understand

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