Terry Frei, a columnist who has been named Colorado’s sportswriter of the year four times, is out of a job after tweeting that he was “very uncomfortable” with Japanese driver Takuma Sato winning the Indianapolis 500 on the day before Memorial Day.
Denver Post publisher Mac Tully and editor Lee Ann Colacioppo apologized Monday for a “disrespectful and unacceptable tweet” as they announced that Frei is no longer an employee of the newspaper because of the social media comment that sparked intense backlash.
“We apologize for the disrespectful and unacceptable tweet that was sent by one of our reporters,” the statement reads. “Terry Frei is no longer an employee of The Denver Post. It’s our policy not to comment further on personnel issues. The tweet doesn’t represent what we believe nor what we stand for. We hope you will accept our profound apologies.”
Frei apologized for the tweet he put up shortly after Sato’s historic win. He later deleted it.
“Nothing specifically personal, but I am very uncomfortable with a Japanese driver winning the Indianapolis 500 during Memorial Day weekend,” Frei tweeted after Sato became the first Japanese driver to win the prestigious race.
“I apologize,” Frei tweeted hours later. The Denver Post tweeted an immediate apology Sunday night and indicated that Frei’s tweet “does not reflect the standards and values of our organization.”
Frei later tweeted a lengthier apology, which he deleted and replaced with a slightly revised version to remove the title of one of his books. “I made a stupid reference, during an emotional weekend,” wrote Frei, who said his father was a World War II veteran.
Frei also apologized to Sato, who has had no public reaction to Frei’s comment.
Here’s the full text of Frei’s apology:
I fouled up. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said what I said when I said it. I should have known better and I regret it. I in no way meant to represent my employer and I apologized to The Denver Post.
On Sunday, I was going down to Fort Logan National Cemetery to place flowers on the grave of and to salute my father, Jerry Frei, who spent the four-year gap between his sophomore and junior seasons at Wisconsin flying the F-5 unarmed version of the one-man P-38 fighter plane in the 26th Photo Squadron. (And I did make that visit.) He flew alone, or with a partner in a second plane, over Japanese targets in advance of the bombing runs. When Blake Olson of Channel 9 asked him about being unarmed, he laughed and said, ‘I had a pistol.’ He flew 67 missions, crossing the 300 combat hours threshold, and earned the World War II Air Medal three times. I have written much other material about American athletes in World War II. I researched and wrote quite graphically about the deaths of my father’s teammates, Dave Schreiner and Bob Baumann, in the Battle of Okinawa. I have the picture wallet containing photos of his family and girlfriend that Schreiner was carrying when he was killed. That is part of my perspective.
I am sorry, I made a mistake, and I understand 72 years have passed since the end of World War II and I do regret people with whom I probably am very closely aligned with politically and philosophically have been so offended. To those people, I apologize. (In fact, the assumptions about my political leanings have been quite inaccurate.) I apologize to Takuma Sato. I made a stupid reference, during an emotional weekend, to one of the nations that we fought in World War II — and, in this case, the specific one my father fought against. Again, I will say I’m sorry, I know better, and I’m angry at myself because there was no constructive purpose in saying it and I should not have said it, especially because The Denver Post has been dragged into this.
Frei’s tweet drew a torrent of condemnation on social media.
“SPECIFICALLY personal, i am very uncomfortable w your racism, xenophobia & lack of understanding of what the Indianapolis 500 is all about,” Megan Brown tweeted. “Really just a monumentally stupid tweet,” The Mountain Goats band tweeted to Frei. “Congrats.”
After deleting his original tweet, Frei wrote, “THIS is what Memorial Day is about. Dave Schreiner’s death in Battle of Okinawa. Not for squeamish or ‘sensitive,’ ” he wrote, deleting it when and deleted it when it proved controversial.
“Ya that’s it, go ahead and double down on the Japanese racism,” another person tweeted to him.