CBS Sports commentator Jimmy (the Greek) Snyder, in remarks that touched off a firestorm of reaction and criticism, said in a televised interview yesterday that blacks are better athletes than whites because they have been "bred to be that way," and that "the only thing left for the whites is a couple of coaching jobs."

Snyder, 70, is in Washington for the CBS telecast of Sunday's NFC championship game. While he was having lunch at Duke Zeibert's restaurant, he was interviewed by a WRC-TV reporter seeking comments on the significance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. Snyder's on-camera remarks were the lead story on Channel 4's newscast at 6 p.m., and immediately afterward, he apologized, saying he did not mean to offend anyone.

"I should have expressed myself a lot better than I did today," he said.

In the Channel 4 interview, he was asked by WRC writer-producer Ed Hotaling about civil rights in sports. Snyder said: "Well, they've got everything; if they {blacks} take over coaching like everybody wants them to, there's not going to be anything left for white people.

"I mean all the players are black; I mean the only thing that the whites control is the coaching jobs . . . The black talent is beautiful; it's great; it's out there. The only thing left for the whites is a couple of coaching jobs."

Later in the interview, he said: "There are 10 players on a basketball court. If you find two whites, you're lucky. Either four out of five or nine out of 10 are black. Now that's because they practice and they play and they practice and play. They're not lazy like the white athlete . . .

"The black is a better athlete to begin with, because he's been bred to be that way. Because of his high thighs and big thighs that go up into his back. And they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs, you see."

Still later: "I'm telling you that the black is the better athlete and he practices to be the better athlete and he's bred to be the better athlete because this goes all the way to the Civil War when, during the slave trading, the owner, the slave owner, would breed his big woman so that he would have a big black kid, see. That's where it all started."

WRC newscasters Jim Vance and Dave Marash both criticized Snyder's remarks on the air and the station reported it was swamped with telephone calls protesting Snyder's comments. "People are upset and confused," said Kris Ostrowski, assistant news director at WRC. Dan Rather also aired some of Snyder's comments on the CBS Evening News, as did NBC's Nightly News.

An hour after the WRC interview was aired locally, Susan Kerr, a spokesman for the network, issued the following statement: "CBS Sports deeply regrets the remarks made earlier today to a news reporter by Jimmy (the Greek) Snyder. We find them to be reprehensible. In no way do they reflect the views of CBS Sports."

Snyder, a 12-year fixture on CBS Sports who earned a national reputation as a sports oddsmaker and analyst, is scheduled to appear on the pregame NFL Today show Sunday before the Redskins' game against the Minnesota Vikings. Kerr said last night that no discussion had taken place yet on possible disciplinary action the network might take toward him.

"We'll have more on that tomorrow {Saturday}," she said.

Neil Pilson, president of CBS Sports, was flying to Hawaii and not available to comment.

Minutes after the interview was aired on Channel 4, Snyder told The Washington Post: "If what I said offended people, I apologize. I didn't mean for my remarks to come out the way they did. I was trying to emphasize how much harder so many blacks work at becoming better athletes than white athletes. And they work harder because they're hungrier. That many black athletes run faster and jump higher than whites is a fact. Using the term 'bred' was wrong on my part and I apologize for that, as I do for suggesting coaching was the only domain left for whites. Blacks could do well in that area, too, if given the opportunity."

John Jacob, president and chief executive officer of the Urban League, said last night in New York City: "One would expect a man like Jimmy the Greek or anyone who has this kind of exposure on the national media involving athletics not to deal with myths, but empirical data. It's dumb for Jimmy the Greek to make such a ludicrous comment. It just sounds so silly."

A Los Angeles-area branch of the NAACP immediately called for Snyder's dismissal. Willis Edwards, president of the Beverly Hills-Hollywood chapter, said Snyder's remarks "could set race relations back 100 years or more, particularly in the area of sports."

Irv Cross, one of Snyder's colleagues on "NFL Today," said he was shocked by Snyder's remarks. "They don't reflect the Jimmy the Greek I know, and I've known him for almost 13 years," Cross told the Associated Press.

In April, Los Angeles Dodgers executive Al Campanis said on national TV that blacks lack "the necessities" to hold baseball management jobs. The Dodgers fired him.

Jimmy (the Greek) Snyder