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Fangio apologizes, admits mistake for saying he doesn't 'see racism in NFL'

The Broncos head coach spoke to his players Wednesday and says he was "sorry" and his suggestion that there was no racism in league "was wrong."
Credit: AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio reacts along the sidelines during the first half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Denver.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio has apologized for saying during a Zoom press conference Tuesday that he doesn’t see racism or discrimination in the NFL.

Fangio addressed the matter to his players and coaches during a team meeting Wednesday, then issued a statement in which he admitted he had made a mistake while also apologizing to the NFL and Broncos’ fans and followers.

“While 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.

"While I have never personally experienced those terrible things first-hand during my 33 years in the NFL, I understand that many players, coaches and staff have different perspectives. I should have been more clear and I am sorry.

"I wanted to make a point yesterday that there is no color within the locker rooms I have been in, or on the playing field I have coached on. Unfortunately, we don't live or work only within those confines. Outside of those lines in the NFL and society there's a lot of work to be done in the areas of diversity and providing opportunities across the board for minorities.

"As a head coach, I look forward to listening to the players both individually and collectively to support them and work hand-in-hand to create meaningful change."

During a Zoom video conference call with the Denver media on Tuesday, Fangio had been asked about the evolution of player activism in the NFL since he first joined the league as a linebackers coach in 1986 – 34 years ago.

“I don’t know that it’s changed a whole lot, to be honest with you,’’ Fangio said. “I haven’t seen a great, great change other than—I just don’t think there’s been a tremendous change, and I don’t say that to be negative.

“I think our problems in the NFL along those lines are minimal. 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 live in a great atmosphere.

“Like I alluded to earlier, we’re lucky. 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.”

Credit: AP Photo/Adrian Kraus
Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio talks with Denver Broncos strong safety Kareem Jackson on Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, in Orchard Park, N.Y.

Fangio may have been blending thoughts with a press conference answer he gave four questions earlier. He had talked then about how NFL locker rooms “have no boundaries. We have players, coaches, people that work for the team from all different ethnicities, from all different walks of life, from all different backgrounds, nationalities, religious beliefs, and over the years all of those have been blended in together seamlessly most of the time. I think sports is a great forum for that and luckily it just proves how people can get along. I’ve been in the NFL or pro football since 1984 and I never have been around a problem in that regard, and it’s because we all come together with common goals, we all learn about each other, we spend a lot of time with each other and we move forward. We don’t have the same amount of problems that maybe society as a whole has in our atmosphere.”

RELATED: Fangio says policeman involved in George Floyd death should be 'charged with treason for failing to uphold the badge and uniform'

However, when addressing the question about player activism by saying he had not seen racism or discrimination in the league, Fangio did not specify he was speaking only about the interaction between players and coaches in the locker room and on the field.

Those comments brought strong disagreements along social media platforms, including from Seattle running back Chris Carson, who tweeted, “This man a joke,” and his teammate Quandre Diggs, who said, “Is he blind?” Hall of Fame receiver Terrell Owens responded to Fangio's words by asking, “What does he think that was with (Colin Kaepernick?)”

For much of Wednesday, Fangio had been trending No. 1 on social media.

Besides Kaepernick, who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2016, when he protested white police killings against black people by taking a knee during pregame National Anthems, the league has generally received low marks for minority hirings at its uppermost levels of general manager, head coach and coordinator positions.

Tampa Bay’s Byron Leftwich and Kansas City’s Eric Bieniemy are the only two black offensive coordinators in the league and only Leftwich is entrusted with calling plays.

Fangio's words about no racism in the NFL overshadowed the rest of his press conference Tuesday in which the Broncos coach spoke strongly about the country needing change and solutions to its "societal problem" that is racism. He harshly condemned the white police officer in Minnesota who, according to autopsy reports, restrained George Floyd in a way that contributed to Floyd's death. The officer, Derek Chauvin, continued to kneel on Floyd's in a nonchalant manner even though Floyd had continually gasped 'I can't breathe."

The death of Floyd, a black man, at the knee of a white police officer set off protests and riots across the country. Chauvin was arrested on third-degree murder and other charges. His charge reportedly will be upgraded to second-degree murder today.

“He should be punished to the fullest extent of the law for the crimes he has been charged with in addition to being charged with treason for failing to uphold the badge and the uniform he was entrusted with,'' Fangio said Tuesday of the Minnesota police officer before later adding: “Good deeds and doing the right things by all in society will far outweigh people pontificating what their words and any amount of money can solve. Sports bring people together and I look forward to the Broncos and the NFL leading that charge.”

RELATED: Broncos CEO Ellis hears players feelings on country's civil unrest

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