Now, it's Bobby Clampett's turn.
The week after the famed Masters tournament in Augusta, Ga., Clampett a three-time All-American at BYU and now a CBS network golf announcer is under fire for using a racial slur to describe Chinese golfer Wen-Chong Liang while doing commentary on an Internet broadcast of Amen Corner last weekend.
Clampett was taken off the broadcast and later issued an apology for calling Liang a "Chinaman" after Liang missed the cut.
"It has been a privilege to be here with you the last two days describing action of all of the players," Clampett said in a statement released Monday. "In describing the Asian player Wen-Chong Liang, if I offended anybody, please accept my sincere apology."
It is unknown whether Clampett will be suspended or lose his broadcasting job for the remark.
This comes on the heels of Golf Channel broadcaster Kelly Tilgham being suspended for two weeks after a comment saying if young PGA Tour players want to challenge Tiger Woods, they should "lynch him in a back alley."
Worldwide reaction on Clampett has been mixed. Some feel announcers are swimming in a tide of political correctness and it's gotten out of hand. Others proclaim well-spoken and educated public figures like Clampett and Tilgham still haven't learned.
A snooty British scribbler in The Independent (www.independent.co.uk) made fun of Americans, Clampett and folks who stage The Masters in general if offended. He wrote: "It is a curious place, America. The Augusta National, meanwhile, is thoroughly baffling. Here is a club which only allowed blacks to join 18 years ago and which is still to open its membership to females. So perhaps they aren't in too strong a position to make moral judgments on discrimination."
Still others argue Clampett's reference shouldn't be any more of a slur than calling folks from the U.S. "Americans" or those from Canada "Canadians" or those from England "Englishmen," and society has progressed far enough to move on.
But the word Clampett used is a slur. It doesn't meet the caustic level of calling an African-American the "N" word, or the derogatory expression Don Imus used when describing members of the Rutgers women's basketball team.
The biggest criticism of Clampett has been the weakness of his apology. He should have apologized for using the word, period, not qualifying it with, "if I offended anyone."
Clampett could have used advice from BYU vice president Fred Skousen, who came under fire in 2004 for using the same expression before a gathering of athletic department staff in 1999. When describing the proposed student athlete center, he said that BYU had the Chinamen lined up to get the job done. In the audience was then-BYU football offensive coordinator Norm Chow, a native Hawaiian of Chinese decent, who later, while coaching at USC, described the incident as offensive.
Skousen sent a letter to everybody at that meeting and apologized for using the slur. Five years later, when The Denver Post revisited the "racial epithet" in an article about Chow, Skousen again apologized in a public statement to the Deseret News which read: "Five years ago, I made a comment without thinking. Afterwards, I realized it was offensive and immediately distributed a written apology to all who were in attendance."
Clampett could have manned up a little more, like Skousen did. He could have been more direct. I'd never consider either man a racist; neither is Tilgham.
But where is all this quibbling over the weight of words taking us in the sports world? From Imus to Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder's 1988 "breeding" slur about blacks, it's been a steady flow.
Remember Fuzzy Zoeller, after Tiger Woods won the 1997 Masters, saying for the next champions dinner "that little boy (Tiger Woods) shouldn't order fried chicken or collard greens"?
Such expressions continue to pop up like dandelions.
Sad, but who can forget former CBS anchor Dan Rather, who was instrumental in getting Jimmy "The Greek" fired? Just 13 years later, Rather describing to Imus, on the air, that his CBS bosses caved in to pressure to cover the Chandra Levy-Gary Condit story said: "They got the willies, they got the Buckwheats." Rather used a racial stereotype of an easily scared black character seen in the old comedy film series "The Little Rascals."
Dan Rather, kettle meet pot.
So, where's all this going?
Well, it's not going to end.For centuries, smart people have said dumb things. As human beings, that's what we do.
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