Atkinson: I'll Meet Player to Say Sorry for My Racist Blast; FORMER ITV PUNDIT LOSES NEWSPAPER COLUMN IN WAKE OF MATCH COMMENTS

The Evening Standard (London, England), April 22, 2004 | Go to article overview

Atkinson: I'll Meet Player to Say Sorry for My Racist Blast; FORMER ITV PUNDIT LOSES NEWSPAPER COLUMN IN WAKE OF MATCH COMMENTS


Byline: HUMFREY HUNTER

DISGRACED football pundit Ron Atkinson today offered to apologise in person to Marcel Desailly for calling him a "f***ing lazy thick n*****".

The 65-year-old resigned from ITV Sport last night, admitting it was "nobody's fault but my own" that his comment about the Chelsea defender, made after the club's 3-1 defeat to Monaco in the Champions League on Tuesday, was broadcast live on TV.

Atkinson added that he felt he had no choice but to resign. He said: "I thought I had put ITV on the spot. What I said was obviously unacceptable."

His media career suffered a further blow today when his contract for a weekly column in The Guardian was cancelled "by mutual agreement".

He had assumed he was off air at the time the comment was made but several countries, including Egypt and Dubai, were still receiving the feed and relayed it in full.

"To the people I offended, particularly Marcel Desailly, I would apologise," Atkinson told Radio Five Live today. "It was not an intentional comment, but it was an unfortunate one. I did not even know I had said it."

The remark had surprised many, since Atkinson was widely regarded as having contributed to the progress of black players in an era when casual racism was rife.

He added: "I have worked with more black players, I would think, than any other manager in the country and I bet none of them has ever heard me say it to them."

Speaking later at the gates of his home in Barnt Green, Worcestershire, Atkinson claimed he had made his comments in anger while "thinking more as a fan".

But he stressed that he thought they were not being transmitted, adding: "We didn't hear it until the following day. I was only talking to myself, into a monitor set.

"I had taken off the headphones I was looking at some playbacks on the game. …

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