Lou Holtz made a name for himself as a reputable college football head coach at NC State, Arkansas, Notre Dame, and South Carolina, to name a few stops, leading the Fighting Irish to a national championship in 1988 and eventually landing in the College Football Hall of Fame. He followed up his coaching career with a stint as an analyst with ESPN where he made a name for himself for his “pep talks,” College Football Final banter, and the occasional bad comment.
He left ESPN in 2015 and since then has made a name for himself by making questionable and controversial statements. His public endorsement of then-Republican nominee Donald Trump certainly raised some eyebrows. He doubled down on that by appearing at the Republican National Convention where, in keeping with his endorsement, he made some extremely insensitive comments about immigrants.
Lou Holtz on immigrants: "I don't want to celebrate your holidays, I sure as hell don't want to cheer for your soccer team"
— Betsy Woodruff (@woodruffbets) July 19, 2016
Betsy Woodruff of The Daily Beast wrote a story on Holtz’s appearance. The title of the article read “Lou Holtz at RNC Said Immigrants are Deadbeats Invading the U.S.”
Speaking at a luncheon the Republican National Coalition for Life hosted during the RNC to honor Phyllis Schlafly, Holtz said the high number of immigrants coming to the U.S. constitutes an “invasion.” And he said new immigrants need to assimilate better. Holtz added that his grandparents learned English after immigrating to the U.S. from Ukraine, and insisted his family learn it as well. New immigrants to this country, he continued, need to learn and speak English and “become us.”
“I don’t want to become you,” he continued. “I don’t want to speak your language, I don’t want to celebrate your holidays, I sure as hell don’t want to cheer for your soccer team!”
The crowd laughed and applauded.
Afterward, Holtz apparently complained and the title was changed to “Holtz Goes on Immigrant-Bashing RNC Rant.” They also issued a correction, stating that Holtz “did not say that immigrants are ‘deadbeats,’ and we sincerely regret this error.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Holtz remains unhappy with the article and its new headline and has now filed a defamation lawsuit against The Daily Beast. Per the lawsuit, Holtz claims that the revised headline still portrays his comments “falsely” and was too little, too late after dozens of other outlets repeated the original verbiage. Holtz claims to have lost speaking gigs and suffered “mental anguish … personal humiliation and distress.” He is seeking more than $75,000 in damages.
As for his specific comments, Holtz’s suit claims he was relaying advice from his grandmother, who was herself an immigrant, on the importance of assimilation. As for saying he didn’t want to “cheer for your soccer team,” his attorneys claim that it was “a joke that you would expect to hear from a lifelong football fan, football coach, and football commentator.” They also argue that the Daily Beast article reframed Holtz’s appearance from a focus on abortion opposition into a speech that was “mean-spirited and related to bashing immigrants.”
The onus is now on Holtz and his legal team to prove that The Daily Beast was negligent in their reporting and use of “deadbeats” in the original title. It could be a tough claim to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, given the context of the speech and Holtz’s comments made elsewhere about immigrants and other groups.
WATCH: Lou Holtz compares the black experience with cops to him getting a ticket from police fan of another team. pic.twitter.com/t7v3oy2WKv
— Thomas Bishop (@bishopk0s) September 27, 2017
However, it’s also entirely possible that this lawsuit will end up getting settled, as can often happen, in order to alleviate legal costs and move forward.