DENVER -- Broncos coach Vic Fangio apologized Wednesday for his comments on racism and discrimination in the NFL after his remarks drew sharp criticism, including from current players in the league.
Fangio issued a statement, provided here in full:
"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. 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 the point yesterday that there is no color within the locker rooms I have been in or on the playing fields I have coached on. Unfortunately, we don't live or work only within those confines. Outside of those lines -- both in the NFL and society -- there is a lot of work to do be done in the areas of diversity and providing opportunities across the board for minorities. As the 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."
Fangio spoke to his players Wednesday to clarify the intent of his original comments.
Wednesday, Fangio drew sharp criticism for remarks he made during a Zoom press conference, saying he didn't believe racism and discrimination exist in the NFL. He was asked Tuesday about the evolution of player activism during his career in the NFL. As I wrote earlier today, there was an assumption on my part that Fangio was discussing players and the locker room in his answer. However, he did not specify that.
"I don’t know that it’s changed a whole lot, to be honest with you. 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," Fangio said. "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."
Seahawks running back Chris Carson tweeted that the Broncos coach was a "a joke," and former Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. tweeted, he was "confused" by Fangio's answer. The NFL has been criticized for lacking diversity at the highest levels, featuring only four minority coaches and two minority general managers. Fangio has publicly supported the Rooney Rule in the past, a policy that requires minority candidates be interviewed for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. The league is considering expanding the scope of this policy.
Tuesday, Fangio encouraged his players to protest, "to do what they feel is the best to do," and praised safety Justin Simmons for speaking out during a protest last weekend in Florida.
"I thought it was great. Justin is a great person, a great leader and has his head screwed on correctly. He sees the problems and how they need to be solved, He’s doing it peacefully and he’s searching for solutions. It’s easy for everybody to identify the problems -- we all know the problems -- but we need to search for solutions," Fangio said. "I think that Justin is one of those guys that will help us find solutions and lead us out of this mess that we’re in."
Former Buccaneers and Colts coach Tony Dungy was asked about Fangio's comments Tuesday regarding not seeing discrimination in the NFL. He agreed with Fangio that meritocracy exists in the locker room and on the field, but said issues remain.
"If you listen to that statement there’s a lot of truth to it. Vic talked about it being a meritocracy, and it is in the locker room and on the field. I think we had 29 African-Americans drafted in the first round out of 32 players, so, yes, there is progress there. And yes, there is working together. And a football locker room can be one of the greatest places in the world where you see people coming together from all different backgrounds chasing a common goal. So that is true," Dungy said ESPN's Golic and Wingo radio show.
"To say there's no racism and no problem, I think, really is not recognizing the situation. As you said, the league has talked about having 70-75 percent African American players and no black (team) presidents, just a couple of black general managers. ... It is not a complete meritocracy, even though it's a great place. And I think the same thing could be said of our country."