Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen today apologized for offending a Chinese-American group by using the term “Chinaman” while joking about a black San Francisco 49ers player.
The remarks “never were intended to be any kind of insult or in any way offensive to any group or individual, especially not to anyone of Chinese extraction,” Bowlen said in a news statement issued in Denver.
“To anyone who feels offended by my remarks, I would like to say that I am embarrassed and offer my apologies,” Bowlen said. He invited representatives from Chinese for Affirmative Action of San Francisco to contact him to discuss the matter.
Chinese for Affirmative Action on Tuesday had demanded that Bowlen apologize and said it also had asked NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to fine Bowlen for his “racist comment.”
Bowlen, whose team faces the 49ers in the Super Bowl in New Orleans on Jan. 28, offered his tongue-in-cheek assessment of the San Francisco team at the Bronco’s training complex on Monday.
“Those guys have got a great owner,” he said. “They’ve got God for a quarterback. They’ve got a Chinaman who plays wide receiver whose feet never touch the ground.”
Bowlen, when asked what he meant, said “‘That Chinese guy. What’s his name? Rice?” referring to Jerry Rice.
Broncos spokesman Jim Saccomano said Tuesday that Bowlen “was just speaking facetiously” about Rice, who is black.
“He said he was simply making a play on words. He added that certainly at no point did he mean anything ethnic or racial. He was trying to be funny,” Saccomano said.
Today, Bowlen confirmed that was his intention.
“My remarks were obviously made in jest and were an attempt to speak facetiously,” Bowlen said. “I never intended these comments to be taken in an offensive manner.”
But Chinese for Affirmative Action said the term “Chinaman” was “an extremely derogatory term” to the Asian community.
“In a country which is as ethnically diverse as the United States, the use of racial slurs is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” the group said in a statement.
“Furthermore, derogatory statements such as Mr. Bowlen’s alienate the football viewing audience, which includes many Asians, and does not make good business sense.”
Fining Bowlen for his remarks “would be analogous” to those imposed on owners and coaches for rudeness to referees, the organization said.
Bowlen’s remarks came after he expressed optimism about the Broncos’ chances against the defending Super Bowl champion 49ers, the 12-point favorite.
“Take the Broncos and the points,” Bowlen said. "(The odds makers) haven’t been right yet. I think it would be an upset if we lose.”