An NFL head coach has apologized for dismissing the claims of those who say the league has strides to make in tackling racism and discrimination.
Vic Fangio of the Denver Broncos said the NFL could serve as a model for unity and equal opportunity at a time when tensions have erupted into protests and riots over the death of George Floyd at the hands of a former Minneapolis police officer.
"I think our problems in the NFL along those lines are minimal," Fangio told reporters on Tuesday, according to ESPN. "We're a league of meritocracy, you earn what you get, you get what you earn. I don't see racism at all in the NFL, I don't see discrimination in the NFL. We all live together, joined as one, for one common goal, and we all intermingle and mix tremendously. If society reflected an NFL team, we'd all be great."
Two Seattle Seahawks players begged to differ with Fangio's comments.
"This man a joke ..." said running back Chris Carson.
"Is he blind??" asked safety Quandre Diggs.
On Wednesday afternoon, Fangio issued an apology.
“After reflecting on my comments yesterday and listening to the players this morning, I realize what I said regarding racism and discrimination in the NFL was wrong," a statement posted by the Broncos said.
The NFL itself would probably disagree with Fangio's characterization, after an offseason in which Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted the league was failing to sufficiently interview and hire minority candidates. A widely panned proposal to incentivize minority hiring through a system of improved draft picks was abandoned. The league ultimately updated its famous Rooney Rule, which now requires at least two minority candidates be interviewed for every opening.
Last week, former White House Press Secretary and NFL communications EVP Joe Lockhart wrote an opinion piece in which he called for the Minnesota Vikings to sign Colin Kaepernick, and admitted the league had mishandled his situation.
Fangio's comments came after the Broncos held a team meeting to address the Floyd case and the protests, led by CEO Joe Ellis.
"I was shocked, sad and angry when I saw what the policeman did to a handcuffed George Floyd on his stomach that led to his death,'' Fangio said. "He should be punished to the full extent of the law of the crimes he was charged with in addition to being charged with treason for failing to uphold the badge and uniform he was entrusted with ... It's a societal issue that we all have to join in to correct.''
Fangio cited the activism efforts of Broncos All-Pro safety Justin Simmons in his hometown of Stuart, Florida, the ESPN report said.