The day after Green Bay Packers defensive end Reggie White condemned homosexuality and characterized segments of Americans in a stereotypical fashion that shocked many, none was more stunned by the fallout than White himself.
White, invited by the Wisconsin legislature to speak about urban renewal efforts and a recent trip to Israel, used the opportunity Wednesday to share his views about homosexuality, which he considers a sin. He further opined that God created different races for a reason and endowed each with special gifts. White's descriptions, presented in rambling oratory, reinforce what to many are offensive racial stereotypes.
His comments drew sharp criticism from leaders of the nation's gay community.
"For a defensive player, he's incredibly offensive," said Rebecca Isaacs, political director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "Comments like these, that express hatred for gays and lesbians and hatred and stereotypes for other racial groups, have a negative effect on our society."
Said David M. Smith, a strategist with the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, "Clearly Mr. White showed a great deal of disrespect to a number of groups -- not only gay Americans, but including gay Americans. These are certainly not remarks you would expect to hear from a role model and respected figure in the sports world."
In an interview yesterday afternoon, White, an ordained minister, said he had heard many positive comments from friends, fans and university professors, who left messages on White's answering machine thanking him for "being honest."
"There's more people for me than against me," White said.
He said he was stunned by others' hostile reactions, and felt many who were bothered by his remarks simply hadn't heard their full context.
Still, he said he stood by them.
"This has not been an easy day at all, but I can handle that," White said. "I'm not changing, I'm not backtracking on anything I said. People around the country are giving their views without hearing the whole speech."
"What I mentioned about homosexuality being a sin -- I also mentioned that lying is a sin, adultery is a sin. The Bible says that they are sins. The Bible talks about sodomy. Sodomy involves homosexuality, child molestation -- any type of sexual perversion. That's what sodomy is. In the process of that, I mentioned our country is headed in the wrong direction because we sit back and watch sin and let it happen. It's destroying our country and will until we have men and women that stand up and speak out."
On Wednesday, White told lawmakers the plight of homosexuals shouldn't be compared to that of blacks, stressing that homosexuality was "a decision, it's not a race. People from all different ethnic backgrounds also are liars and cheaters and malicious and back-stabbing." He categorized blacks as "gifted at worship and celebration," whites as "good at organization," Asians as able to "turn a television into a watch" and Hispanics as knowing how to "put 20 or 30 people in one home."
While holding steadfast to his theories, White said yesterday: "Maybe when I was characterizing each race maybe I should have expressed all the gifts of each one of us. I didn't have time to do all of that."
He was as resolute on homosexuality being a sin. "I'm only stating what the Bible states," he said. "You might as well be calling the Bible racist or God a racist."
NFL officials could not be reached to comment. Lee Remmel, the Packers' executive director of public relations, said, "As an organization we have no comment on Reggie's appearance before the state legislature."
Other sports figures have paid dearly for racial remarks. Al Campanis, then vice president of the Los Angeles Dodgers, was sent packing after saying on national television that black people didn't have the "necessities" to fill front-office and managerial jobs. Announcer Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder was fired by CBS after saying that black athletes were more talented than whites because they were "bred to be that way." Last year, golfer Fuzzy Zoeller lost endorsement deals and a broadcast analyst job for racially laced remarks following Tiger Woods's victory in The Masters.
White said he was shocked anyone would draw a parallel.
"I generalized," White said. "Blacks are very good in singing and celebration. That's not to say we're less intelligent. In order to be a songwriter you've got to be able to sit down and write a song. Asians have been given the gift of creativity and invention. Many blacks have invented stuff, too -- don't get me wrong. Why would I want to insult my own people, me being a black man?
"I'm saying what Americans don't want to admit to: We're all different. We have different cultures. We're gifted at different situations. If we came together it could benefit all our communities.
"I think our nation wants people that will be politically correct. I am not politically correct. I base my lifestyle on what God is telling me to do. What did Jesus do in similar situations: He said things people didn't like. In a way, I'm no different. There were lies spread on him and lies spread on me."
White had recently auditioned for a job as an analyst for CBS, which recently regained the right to broadcast NFL games.
CBS Sports spokeswoman Leslie Ann Wade declined to address White's remarks directly. "I don't talk about anybody who doesn't work for us," she said.
Asked if comments such as White's would preclude his hiring by CBS, Wade said, "Any violation of the corporation's policies against bias would certainly seem to preclude anybody from being hired by CBS." CAPTION: Reggie White condemned homosexuality and discussed what he considered attributes of different races in his address to the Wisconsin assembly. CAPTION: Reggie White: "We have different cultures. We're gifted at different situations. If we came together it could benefit all our communities."