Jimmy (the Greek) Snyder, CBS Sports commentator, analyst and oddsmaker, was fired by the network yesterday after a controversial television interview Friday in which he said many blacks were superior athletes because of breeding from the time of slavery and that the only area in sports left for whites was coaching.

Snyder, 70, had been with CBS Sports for 12 years. In an interview shortly after the midday announcement, he said that CBS executives wanted him to resign, but he refused and was fired by CBS Sports President Neal Pilson in a telephone conversation from Hawaii.

"I told him {Pilson} I wanted to face everyone Sunday," Snyder said. "He told me, 'I can't let you do it.' "

Pilson was not available for comment, but Gene F. Jankowski, president of the CBS Broadcast Group, said, "{Snyder} made a number of remarks about black and white athletes which had patently racist overtones. CBS wishes to categorically disassociate itself from these remarks."

Snyder's interview with WRC-TV-4's Ed Hotaling took place at lunchtime Friday in Duke Zeibert's downtown restaurant for a program on the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. The interview was carried on the 6 p.m. news and picked up by the three networks and other stations.

Snyder's remarks touched off a storm of protests across the country from viewers, television and radio commentators and some black leaders. He apologized for his statements moments after they were aired and said he did not mean to offend anyone.

A statement by the network yesterday said: "CBS Sports today ended its relationship with Jimmy (the Greek) Snyder. . . . In no way do these comments reflect the views of CBS Sports. Mr. Snyder has been a member of the CBS Sports team since 1976 and has made important contributions to its success."

Snyder was in Washington to appear on "NFL Today" preceding the National Football Conference championship game between the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings. He will not appear on the show, which now includes Brent Musburger, Irv Cross and Will McDonough.

"I never quit anything in my life," Snyder said when asked why he did not resign. "I apologized; I admitted I made a mistake in what I said and how I said it and was willing to let my record speak for itself.

"I wanted to be at RFK Stadium Sunday and do my job."

Snyder was working on a one-year contract worth about $750,000 a year. He said he hopes to remain in television and radio and continue his nationally syndicated column.

"It isn't easy separating after so many years," Snyder said of the end of his career with CBS. "I'm going to try to overcome what's happened to me this weekend. I stand on my record, with the exception of one interview. The business has been my life."

Some of the statements Snyder made in the interview with Hotaling included: "They've {blacks} got everything; if they take over coaching like everybody wants them to, there's not going to be anything left for white people."

Snyder described blacks as being superior athletes because generally, he said, they work harder than white athletes.

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

"This all goes back to the Civil War, when, during the slave trading, the slave owner would breed his big black to his big woman so that he would have a big black kid. That's where it all started."

"What a foolish thing to say," Snyder said yesterday. "I thought I was being instructive, when in fact, I was destructive."

Hotaling, who is black, criticized the firing of Snyder by CBS. "It's outrageous he {Snyder} should be fired for exercising his First Amendment rights. Rather than silence him, they should keep him on and cover the issue of civil rights in sports."

Said Musburger, a former colleague: "It's a big hole when you lose someone who contributed as much as Jimmy did. There's only one Jimmy the Greek. People ask who's out there {to replace him}, but there is no one."

Musburger added: "He was the first of a kind, but he also was a character. There was that segment of the audience that wanted to disagree, wanted to argue with The Greek. I'm feeling a twinge of sadness for the individual, but on the other hand, there's no way you can defend any of those comments, period. Given how outrageous what was said, I don't think they had any choice."

Harry Edwards, head of major league baseball's minority hiring program, expressed outrage.

"Some of his explanations as to why blacks have emerged to a point of near dominance in sports make it clear the man is abysmally ignorant," he said. "How he could sit there for 12 years with the network not knowing of his views is beyond me."

Willis Edwards, president of the Beverly Hills-Hollywood chapter of the NAACP, said, "What a beginning for 1988. How long must the black people of this country endure these publicly touted demeaning and humiliating attitudes?"

Snyder, meanwhile, was coming to grips with the end of his run at CBS. "One bad interview, with my making some foolish statements, could to some people ruin 12 years of good work for the network."

As he contemplated facing an army of news people waiting to see him, Snyder became The Greek again for a few moments. "Do you know the odds against me being in that restaurant, at that time, on that day, answering those questions?" he asked. "Minnesota had to win at New Orleans and then win at San Francisco and Washington had to win at Chicago. Then the camera I was using for my piece on the city {at Duke Zeibert's} for CBS had to break down for 40 minutes. All that had to happen for that interview to take place when it did Friday."

Staff writer Richard Justice contributed to this report.