The San Francisco 49ers have suspended radio color analyst Tim Ryan for one game for suggesting that Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is aided by his “dark skin.”
Jackson is considered by many to be the frontrunner in the NFL’s MVP race this season. He has rushed for 977 yards this season and needs only 73 more to break Michael Vick’s single-season record for quarterbacks.
The bulk of Jackson’s yards on the ground come when he runs a zone-read offense. During the Ravens’ 20-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jackson gained 70 of his 101 rushing yards after faking a handoff to a running back then taking off with the ball himself.
On a radio show the next day, Ryan suggested one of the reasons Jackson excels at such plays is because it’s difficult for defenders to see the ball, in part because of the quarterback’s skin tone.
“He’s really good at that fake, Lamar Jackson, but when you consider his dark skin color with a dark football with a dark uniform, you could not see that thing,” Ryan said Monday on KNBR-AM (690) in San Francisco. “I mean, you literally could not see when he was in and out of the mesh point, and if you’re a half step slow on him in terms of your vision, forget about it, he’s out of the gate.”
Ryan issued an apology Wednesday.
“I regret my choice of words in trying to describe the conditions of the game,” he said in a statement. “Lamar Jackson is an MVP-caliber player and I respect him greatly. I want to sincerely apologize to him and anyone else I offended.”
Later that day, the 49ers announced Ryan will not call this week’s game against the New Orleans Saints.
“We hold Tim to a high standard as a representative of our organization and he must be more thoughtful with his words,” the team said Wednesday in a statement. “Tim has expressed remorse in a public statement and has also done so with us privately. We know Tim as a man of high integrity and are confident he will grow and learn from this experience.”
The 49ers told the San Francisco Chronicle that it called the Ravens to “extend our apologies and assure them the matter is not being taken lightly.” The Ravens told the San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday that the 49ers “reached out to us earlier today and explained what happened.”