Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens apologized yesterday for participating in a sexually suggestive skit that opened the telecast this week for "Monday Night Football."
"I felt like it was clean, the organization felt like it was a clean skit and I think it just really got taken out of context with a lot of people and I apologize for that," Owens said at the Eagles' training complex in Philadelphia. "Personally, I didn't think it would have offended anyone and, if it did, I apologize."
The skit was set in the Eagles' locker room, with Owens in full uniform confronted by actress Nicollette Sheridan, the star of ABC's hit series, "Desperate Housewives." Sheridan, wearing only a towel, provocatively asked Owens to skip the football game, then dropped the towel and jumped into his arms.
The NFL and the Federal Communications Commission have criticized ABC, owned by the Walt Disney Co., for airing the segment. On Wednesday, the Indianapolis Colts' Tony Dungy, one of five black head coaches in the league, said the skit was racially insensitive (Owens is black; Sheridan is white) and "stereotypical in looking at the players."
The FCC, NFL and ABC said they had received numerous complaints, and ABC may be fined by the FCC. Both ABC and the Eagles, who also fielded angry complaints, released statements of apology Tuesday.
The Eagles' organization has come under heavy criticism for allowing ABC access to the locker room without knowing what the skit, which reportedly required eight takes, was about, for allowing Owens to wear his uniform and for not monitoring the final product.
Last year, Eagles team owner Jeffrey Lurie, a women's rights advocate, was harshly critical of ESPN, also owned by Disney, for airing the controversial miniseries "Playmakers," which was based on a fictional pro football team. Bowing to NFL pressure, ESPN dropped the show after one season.
The controversy comes at a sensitive time as Disney continues negotiating for rights to televise games. The NFL completed long-term deals with CBS and Fox, but the prime-time and cable deals for ABC and ESPN have not been resolved.
Owens said yesterday he did not anticipate the scene would generate such controversy.
"I thought it was a fun skit and that was it," said Owens, who scored three touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys in the Eagles' 49-21 victory. He also implied that part of the problem was his participation. Owens has drawn attention in recent years for his flamboyant touchdown celebrations and taunting of opponents.
"Anything I get involved with, I'm obviously a target," he said.
Asked if he was shocked the story was getting prominent display in newspapers, Owens said, "I always make the front page."
News services also contributed to this report.