Most everybody has said at least one thing they regret. Most of the time, however, that does not cost the person anything more than some potential embarrassment, or a very delicate situation. As things go higher and more public however, there is an increased likelihood of a fall, especially when the stupid thing you say is undeniably racist or bigoted. Here are some people who learned that particular lesson the hard way.
10. Steve Lyons
Steve Lyons is a former professional baseball player. After his pro career was over, Lyons did what a lot of athletes do: become a broadcaster. For whatever reason, Fox Sports did not balk at hiring a guy whose nickname was “Psycho.” They soon learned that Lyons could be, well, a bit more embarrassing than Norman Bates showing up in some inappropriate wear for work.
Lyons fist set off warning bells for his comments on Shawn Green in 2004, after Green sat out a game during Yom Kippur: “He’s not even a practicing Jew. He didn’t marry a Jewish girl. And from what I understand, he never had a bar mitzvah, which is unfortunate, because he doesn’t get the money.”
That was bad, but merely earned ol’ Psycho a suspension. The firing came in 2006, after Lyons suggested that Lou Piniella, who is of Hispanic descent, might steal Lyon’s wallet if given half a chance. Lyons also stated that Piniella’s use of bilingual phrases was “hablaing Espanol.” Lyons is no longer on a national stage, but he does continue to work for the Los Angeles Dodgers as a broadcaster. This would be the same Dodgers organization, by the way, which helped break the color barrier in baseball. Apprently, forward thinking just gets old after awhile.
9. David Duke
After college in Louisiana, David Duke established a splinter chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in which Duke was a Grand Wizard. Generally, that does not lead to a successful political career. But ol’ Duke has done OK for himself, locally anyhow. Duke managed to win office as a Representative in Louisiana, in spite of the fact that his Klan past was common knowledge. Duke even managed to garner votes for President … twice.
Here are some of Duke’s lowlights …
“These Jews who run things, who are producing this mental illness – teenage suicide… all these Jewish sicknesses. That’s nothing new. The Talmud’s full of things like sex with boys and girls.”
“The truth is there are two hundred white women raped in America by a black man for every one black woman raped by whites.”
“Our clear goal must be the advancement of the white race and separation of the white and black races. This goal must include freeing of the American media and government from subservient Jewish interests.”
It should be a death sentence to a political career. However, the fact that Duke has had a political, commenting, and publishing career leads one to believe that, without the racist past, Duke might have been a serious contender for the Presidency. However, it’s all but a certainty that Duke’s comments and beliefs will keep him from ever actually being elected to national office.
8. John Rocker
John Rocker was a star pitcher from Macon, Georgia. In 1998, Rocker realized his dream of becoming a closer for the Atlanta Braves. Rocker’s success would be short-lived though; in 1999, John Rocker had an explosive interview with Sports Illustrated, which was full of Rocker’s personal observations about New York City. Rocker made derogatory comments about minorities, homosexuals, AIDS patients, and single mothers, and pretty much anyone else who wasn’t as pale as him. In reference to riding the subway in New York City, John Rocker said:
“I would retire first. It’s the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the [Number] 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you’re [riding through] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some q**** with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It’s depressing.”
“The biggest thing I don’t like about New York are the foreigners. I’m not a very big fan of foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?”
For his comments, Rocker was suspended for spring training in 2000, as well as 14 games. Over the next few years, Rocker’s comments, as well as declining talent, would cost him job after job in the Major Leagues. Ultimately, Rocker’s career lasted about five years. In addition, Rocker’s personality and comments easily took away any post-career opportunities such as broadcasting. In 2011, Rocker was still defensive about his comments in his autobiography Stars and Strikes, because the very worst thing a racist can possibly do is learn from their mistakes.
7. Rob Parker
Ideally, Rob Parker should have had a story which was celebrated. In 1993, Parker was the first African-American sports columnist for the Detroit Free Press. Parker’s reputation as a writer and commentator for local television grew. However, Parker started to make thoroughly inexplicable comments, which started to lose him both work and livelihood.
In 2008, Parker’s relationship with the Detroit Free Press was frayed when he questioned then-Detroit Lions Head Coach Rod Marinelli about Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry, who was Marinelli’s son-in-law. Parker asked Marinelli in a press conference if Marinells wished his daughter had “married a better defensive coordinator.” Parker’s permanent retreat from the public eye, however, was caused in December of 2012. Parker ranted about Washington Redskins Quarterback Robert Griffin III, who is also African-American. Parker questioned Griffin’s “blackness” and asked whether he was a “brother or a cornball brother:”
“Well, he’s black, he kind of does his thing. But he’s not really down with the cause, he’s not one of us, he’s kind of black. But he’s not really the guy you’d really want to hang out with because he’s off to do something else.”
Parker cited as “proof” that Griffin had a Caucasian finance, as well as the possibility that Griffin might be a rumored Republican. Parker has not appeared in the national spotlight since.
6. Don Imus
In the 1960s, Don Imus won a talent competition, and eventually migrated into the world of morning radio in California. Imus built up his show Imus in the Morning over the course of four decades. In 2007, Imus was a nationally syndicated radio host who was simulcast by the cable network MSNBC. During one of his morning conversations on air, Imus referred to the mostly-black Rutgers women’s basketball team as “rough girls” (because they had tattoos) as well as “nappy-headed hos.”
Imus sparked a national controversy and was eventually dropped by both MSNBC and CBS radio over the comments. Imus responded by suing and claiming that the phrase had originated in the “black community.” Eventually, Imus found his way back on to the airwaves, striking a new deal with Fox Business to broadcast his show. The following year though, in 2008, Imus would again court racial controversy when he responded to learning that NFL player Adam “Pacman” Jones was African-American and had been arrested half a dozen times with, “Well, there you go. Now, you know.” For that comment, Imus actually received no disciplinary action, because Fox.
5. Marge Schott
While owner of the Cincinnati Reds, Marge Schott was suspended from day-to-day operations with her own team not once but twice. In a deposition in 1992, Schott was accused of using derogatory comments about Jews, African-Americans, homosexuals and Asians. Schott reportedly referred to two of her players as her “million dollar n******.” For that, Schott was suspended from for the entire 1993 season. Schott returned to controversy in 1996. First, she seemed to blame an umpire’s death during a game for ruining her day at the ballpark. Schott also made comments about Hitler initially doing very good things for the German people. Schott’s exact statement was:
“”Everything you read, when he came in [to power] he was good…They built tremendous highways and got all the factories going…Everybody knows he was good at the beginning but he just went too far.”
Well, Schott clearly went too far. As a repeat offender, she was suspended until 1998. Schott would then sell Reds in 1999, and finally go away completely. As a lifelong smoker, she passed away from health complications in 2001.
4. Al Campanis
Al Campanis had spent much of his professional career and life working with the Brooklyn /Los Angeles Dodgers, eventually becoming their General Manager. During his stint as GM, the Dodgers reached the World Series four times.
All of that good stuff would end on April 6th, 1987, when Campanis appeared on Nightline with Ted Koppel. Campanis was on the show to celebrate not only the opening of the Dodgers season, but also the 40th anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier. Campanis chose to celebrate it, however, by slamming Robinson’s race. He insinuated that the reason why there were not more African-Americans in front office positions in Major League Baseball, was because they were simply not smart enough to handle the rigors of the position.
First, Campanis made the assertion that black managers may not want to go to the minor leagues and get less pay. Koppel pressed him…
Ted Koppel : Just tell me, why you think it is. Is there still that much prejudice in baseball today?
Al Campanis: No, I don’t believe it’s prejudice. I truly believe that they may not have some of the necessities to be, let’s say, a field manager, or perhaps a general manager.
Ted Koppel: Do you really believe that?
Al Campanis: Well, I don’t say that all of them, but they certainly are short. How many quarterbacks do you have? How many pitchers do you have that are black?
Koppel gave Campanis several chances to renounce or soften the comments. Campanis did not. Two days later, Campanis resigned as manager of the Dodgers. Campanis would stay retired, and passed away a little over ten years later. To his dying day, Campanis believed that he had opened up an “honest discourse” about the subject or race and the front office. Once again, racists hate learning from their mistakes.
3. Jesse Jackson
Most people know Jesse Jackson as a civil rights worker and frequent television celebrity. Without a Democratic incumbent in the 1984 primary, Jackson actually emerged as a popular and diverse choice for the Democratic nomination. Jackson’s Presidential hopes were largely dashed, however, when he referred to New York City as “Hymietown.” “Hymie” is a racial slur for Jewish people.
It did not help matters that Jackson initially denied that he had made the remarks. In addition to this, Jackson also thought he was off the record when he made the statement in front of a reporter. Jackson had stated in front of the reporter that it was time for “black talk,” which in his case meant “bash the Jews.” Jackson eventually admitted to the comment, and did not get the nomination. Jackson would try again in 1988 and lose out on the nomination again.
Now, there was probably little hope for Jackson to best Ronald Reagan in 1984; The Gipper was simply too popular. However, there is the chance that he might have lost as the first-ever African-American nominee of a major political party, if not for “Hymietown.”
2. Paula Deen
Paula Deen initially turned a home cooking business into a local restaurant. Deen continued her success until she started to be featured on the fledgling Food Network in 1999. Deen would grow to be one of the Food Network’s biggest stars, with endorsement deals following through national chains. However, during a deposition filed in a harassment case by a former employee, Deen admitted to the court that she had, in fact, used racial slurs as well as told racially-based jokes. The National Enquirer and other news outlets started to report the story in June of 2013.
ATTORNEY: “Miss Deen, have you told racial jokes? Have you ever used the N word yourself?”
Paula Deen: “Yes, of course.”
ATTORNEY: “In what context?”
Paula Deen: “Well, it was probably when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head.”
ATTORNEY: Well, then tell me the other context in which you’ve used the N word?
Paula Deen: I don’t know, maybe in repeating something that was said to me.
In addition, she admitted that, awhile back, she had considered a “Southern” wedding for her brother, which would have involved hiring all black waiters and dressing them up as slaves. In response, the Food Network decided not to renew Deen’s contract, and severed ties with her altogether. Deen’s various sponsorship deals also started to dry up. It is estimated that the controversy may end up costing Deen and her family over $17 million in lost revenue.
Deen has now become a lightning rod for those who did not want her career to continue. At this point, Deen’s television and publishing career may be effectively over, beyond what appears to be an extensive apology tour.
1. Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder
Dimetrios Georgios Synodinos was better known throughout his sports broadcasting career as Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder. Snyder also had a career as a bookmaker in Las Vegas. Often, his commentary would essentially be giving gambling advice on NFL football games. Snyder also worked nationally on CBS Sports “The NFL Today” for a dozen years.
All of that fell apart for Snyder in an interview which was done on January 16th, 1988. Snyder was fired by CBS for comments he made to a Washington DC reporter, postulating that African-Americans were naturally better athletes because they had been bred that way on slave plantations:
“The black is a better athlete to begin with because he’s been bred to be that way, because of his high thighs and big thighs that goes up into his back, and they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs and he’s bred to be the better athlete because this goes back all the way to the Civil War when during the slave trade … the slave owner would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid … “
Snyder himself never really recovered from the controversy. In 1991, he attempted to sue CBS for defamation of character, as well as resulting health problems from the firing. Snyder was out of the spotlight until his death via heart attack in 1996.