New Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell spoke about kicking in teeth and biting off kneecaps in his introductory press conference Thursday. He also issued a new apology for an anti-gay remark he made as a college student.
At the end of his presser, Campbell was asked about a homophobic comment he made during a 1998 pep rally at Texas A&M. Campbell, a tight end on the football team, said he was proud to attend a university where “men like women and women like men.”
“It was something I was young and I wish I wouldn’t have said it, and If I could go back I wouldn’t have,” Campbell told reporters. “But here we are and it’s out there, and all I can do is apologize for it.”
Campbell issued an apology at the time, telling a local newspaper he “offended some people” and was “sorry for that.” Suffice to say, his words Thursday were more expansive.
“At the time, I thought it was something exciting, and I remember I got home and my fiancé at the time, who is now my wife, was like, ‘Oh my god, what have you done?’,” he said. “But she was right, and it slapped me right in the face after I had had talked to her. Look, I apologize for it.”
Campbell’s comments were unearthed last week by a reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Strangely, the journalist, Marlowe Alter, had his own history of making anti-gay remarks as a college student. Readers dug up an array of homophobic tweets from his past, many of which contain the f-word.
Alter issued an apology, and the Detroit Free Press said it was conducting an investigation. Sports editor Kirkland Crawford told Outsports there’s currently no update on the inquiry.
This bizarre episode illustrates the prevalence of casual homophobia on college campuses. Campbell’s comments were made in 1998; Alter’s tweets were sent in 2011 and 2012. College sports are more inclusive than ever, but there is still work to be done.
On the positive side, Campbell’s contrite apology Thursday shows the changing atmosphere in the NFL. It is simply unacceptable for any NFL head coach to deride the LGBTQ community, even if they did it jokingly at a pep rally 23 years ago.
According to our tally, 39 active NFL players have played with an out gay teammate, including four who will be playing in the AFC and NFC Championships this weekend. With a six-year contract, Campbell could be in charge of the Lions for a long time. It’s not inconceivable to imagine him coaching a gay player at one point.
He has to show he’s changed. An appropriate, albeit belated apology for an insensitive and dumb remark is a start.