NEW YORK, June 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Columbus Citizens
Foundation calls on NBC to suspend or terminate its contract with golf
analyst Johnny Miller.
On Sunday, June 15, during NBC's coverage of the U.S. Open, Miller made
two derogatory and offensive remarks about professional golfer Rocco
Mediate, who was vying with Tiger Woods for the championship of the U.S.
Miller said of Mediate, who is 45-years-old and of Italian heritage,
"He's a character -- he looks more like the guy who cleans Tiger's swimming
pool." Later in the broadcast, as the prospect of Mediate winning the Open
seemed increasingly possible, Miller said, "Guys with the name of Rocco
don't get on the trophy, do they?"
The "trophy" comment reinforced a negative stereotype -- namely, that
people named Rocco don't deserve to compete successfully in a sport played
in clubs that in some cases continue to exclude members of numerous racial,
religious and ethnic backgrounds -- not to mention women, as a whole.
His message was plain. "Italian Americans: keep out."
And his "swimming pool" remark reinforced a dated and prejudicial
stereotype that Italian Americans are suited to unskilled labor and little
else. (Imagine the outcry that would have followed if Miller had said that
Woods looked like a guy who cleans pools for a living.)
Miller later apologized for the remarks in a statement that NBC
released on June 21. The apology itself was offensive. He stated that his
comments "had nothing to do with [Mediate's] ethnicity," as if the name
Rocco is commonly given to people of Anglo-Saxon heritage.
Although he has apologized, however deficiently, NBC has refused to
sanction or suspend Miller. NBC's inaction reflects a double-standard that
is prevalent in the United States: when broadcasters slur members of
certain ethnic, racial, or religious groups, they are suspended or fired.
When they denigrate others, a simple apology is enough.
The members of the Columbus Citizens Foundation disagree.
Over the past generation, there have been several instances when
broadcasters denigrated an ethnic or racial group, and in each case, there
have been serious consequences.
-- In 2008, Golf Channel broadcaster Kelly Tilghman said the only way young
golfers could catch Woods was to "lynch him in a back alley,"
recalling the hundreds of African Americans lynched during the 19th and
20th centuries. She was suspended for two weeks.
-- In 2007, Don Imus disparaged members of the Rutger University
women's basketball team players along vulgar and prejudicial
stereotypical lines. His show was cancelled by WFAN Radio.
-- In 2006, baseball commentator Steve Lyons mocked co-commentator Lou
Pinella's use of Spanish during a broadcast and said, in an
apparent attempt at humor, that he didn't want to sit near Mr.
Pinella for fear that his wallet would go missing. Fox network fired
-- In 2003, Rush Limbaugh, on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown, said of
African American quarterback Donovan McNabb, "I don't think
he's been that good from the get-go. I think what we've had
here is a little social concern in the NFL. I think the media has been
very desirous that a black quarterback do well. They're interested
in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think
there's a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit
for the performance of his team that he really didn't
deserve." Limbaugh resigned under pressure.
-- In 1988, Jimmy (the Greek) Snyder explained what he perceived was a
superiority of black athletes as follows: "During the slave period,
the slave owner would breed his big black with his big woman so that he
could have a big black kid -- that's where it all started."
He was fired by CBS.
-- In 1987, Los Angeles Dodgers' vice president in charge of player
personnel, Al Campanis, said, "I truly believe, that they [African
Americans] may not have some of the necessities to be, let's say, a
field manager or perhaps a general manager." Asked on
"Nightline" if he truly believed what he had just said,
Campanis continued, "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?" Campanis resigned under
These men and women were penalized for their ignorant, prejudicial
On the grounds of knowledge, Miller is or should be aware that Mediate
is one of a number of Italian-Americans who have been successful
professional golfers. Gene Sarazen (Eugenio Saraceni) won seven grand slam
championships and was one of just five golfers to win each of the sport's
major championships at least once, an achievement known as the Career Grand
Slam. Johnny Revolta, Vic Ghezzi and Ken Venturi also won major
championships, and most recently, Fred Couples (Coppola), won the Masters
in 1992 and was PGA Tour Player of the Year in 1991 and 1992.
In past generations, families of Italian-American descent often
anglicized their names to avoid discrimination, which was common.
Regarding prejudice, Miller's broadcast comments bring into play
demeaning stereotypes and associations that have no place in American
society or culture.
The Columbus Citizens Foundation commends the companies mentioned above
-- WFAN Radio, ESPN, CBS, Fox, the Golf Channel, the Los Angeles Dodgers --
which recognized that indulging in and allowing negative stereotypes,
vulgarity, and ethnically- and racially-based slurs promotes and condones
We also find it deeply troubling that networks acknowledge their moral
obligation to censure broadcasters who make offensive and insensitive
remarks about some groups but not about others. NBC now has the opportunity
to act on the principles of equality and justice for all.
We call on NBC to recognize the seriousness of Miller's comments -- no
matter whether made causally and without any intent of malice -- by
suspending him from its broadcasts or terminating his employment with the
The Columbus Citizens Foundation is a non-profit organization in New
York City committed to fostering an appreciation of Italian-American
heritage and achievement. The Foundation, through a broad range of
philanthropic and cultural activities, provides opportunities for
advancement to deserving Italian-American students through various
scholarship and grant programs. The Foundation organizes New York City's
annual Columbus Celebration and Columbus Day Parade, which has celebrated
Italian-American heritage on New York's Fifth Avenue since 1929.
CONTACT: Andrew Decker, 212-222-4688
SOURCE Columbus Citizens Foundation