ESPN and SEC Network personality Paul Finebaum kicked off quite a controversy with his comments this week on Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protest, saying Monday on his radio/SEC Network show with Marcus Spears “This country has issues, but this country is not oppressing black people” and Tuesday on College Football Live with Joey Galloway “What’s his beef with society, other than he’s upset with how, in his mind, people are being oppressed in this country?”
Finebaum apologized for his comments in both cases on SportsCenter Thursday:
The segment starts with Cari Champion playing the clip from Finebaum’s radio show and then asking him what the reaction has been, and he responds, “Cari, it’s been incredible. I’ve heard from so many people, most of whom were shocked by what I said. I’ve done what I always do in cases like this, I’ve gone back to review what I said there, I went back to review what I said in an exchange with Joey Galloway on College Football Live, and I could spend the rest of my life trying to talk my way out of it, but I can’t. I blew it.
“I simply did not have a good grasp of the situation. I know better; I’ve lived in this country, I see what is going on all across the country from north to south, east to west, and I have no excuse. I can’t explain why I articulated the words the way I did, but I did, and there’s a public record of that and a natural reaction, and I respect that. All I can say is that I made a terrible mistake in trying to express a feeling that I probably…not probably, that I had no right to express. I don’t know whether this will mean anything to anyone, but I feel compelled to answer your question that way, that it was a terrible mistake on my part and that my eyes are wider open today than they’ve been as a result.”
Champion then asks if he’s spoken with Spears or Galloway, and Finebaum responds that he started discussing this with Spears Wednesday and continued on their flight to Knoxville Thursday. “He made a very clear point to me, that as much as he loves me and I love him and we’re like brothers, I can’t understand what he’s been through. And I can’t. I’m not going to try and push what I’ve been through on anyone else, because it doesn’t work.
“Cari, I’ve lived a long time, I’ve lived in the South, I’ve seen the bigotry, I’ve seen the racism. When I went to Birmingham-Alabama 35 years ago, it sickened me to walk on the streets there that a couple years earlier, police dogs were let loose on young African-Americans. So I know better. And that’s what’s so disappointing as a broadcaster, that I didn’t do a better job of making that point.”
That’s a remarkably detailed and sincere apology from Finebaum, and it’s refreshing to see a pundit own a mistake and vow to do better rather than just doubling down after criticism. Good for him.