Not long after longtime Colts radio announcer Bob Lamey abruptly retired on Sunday, news emerged that he had recently upset a black radio station employee by using the n-word while relaying a story he’d heard many years previously from another man at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The other man was subsequently identified by an Indianapolis TV station as Derek Daly, a former driver who had worked for the station for many years as an analyst.
On Thursday, Daly denied being the source for Lamey’s usage of the racial slur — but also admitted to having used the word many years ago in a similar setting, in what he claimed was a misunderstanding attributable to his upbringing in Ireland. “I want everyone to know I deeply regret and sincerely apologize for what I said more than three decades ago,” Daly said in a statement.
The station, WISH, said on its website that it was “standing by” its reporting, asserting that its “journalists accurately reported what Daly shared with us on Wednesday.” They had reported that Daly, with whom the station severed ties, confirmed telling the story to Lamey during a live radio interview in the early 1980s, which led to the “offensive language” Lamey recently used.
Another Indianapolis TV station, WTHR, had reported the day before that Lamey used the slur while telling the radio station employee about his days working at the Speedway. “Bob Lamey’s describing this person, saying he was asked in an interview, ‘Do you think anyone’s holding back their speed at IMS during quals? Do you think anyone’s holding back?'” the employee told the station. “And that person had replied ‘there aren’t any “blank” in this race.’ ”
The employee clarified that, in Lamey’s telling of the story, he didn’t say “blank” but rather the n-word. “He was like, ‘Oh I’m so so sorry. I’m so sorry if you’re offended by this. I didn’t mean to offend anyone,’ and I was like, ‘I’m black and I wouldn’t ever say that word,’ and sort of just told him how it hurt me and how I don’t think he should say it ever, even if he’s telling a story,” the employee said.
Having been identified by WISH as the person who said to Lamey that “there aren’t any [n-words] in this race,” Daly said in a statement Thursday that “Lamey apparently inaccurately attributed a racial slur to me during an interview in the early 80’s.”
“It was reported on their website that I confirmed this. Both of these reports are factually incorrect,” Daly said. “On this subject, I was never interviewed by Bob Lamey. The slanderous statements made by Bob, and now being attributed to me, are not only factually incorrect, but offensive.”
Daly went on to claim that he did use the word in an early-80s radio interview, but in a different context and with a different radio reporter, Larry Henry. Having recently relocated to the United States, Daly said, he was asked about his new situation with an American racing team.
“I responded by explaining that I was a foreign driver now in America, driving for an American team, with an American crew, and with an American sponsor — and that if things did not go well, the only ‘n***** in the wood pile’ would be me,” Daly said in his statement.
“At the time, I meant that I, as the new foreigner on the team, would shoulder the blame and I would be the scapegoat,” he continued. “This was not in any way shape or form meant to be a racial slur. This phrase was commonly used in Ireland, Britain, and Australia.
“When I used that phrase in the early 80’s, I had no idea that in this country that phrase had a horribly different meaning and connotation, as it was commonplace in Ireland. After moving to the United States, I quickly learned what a derogatory term it was. When I was first informed of this, I was mortified at the offense I might have caused people. I have therefore never used the word since. I made this mistake once, but never again.”
Henry told the Indianapolis Star that he remembered all too well the comments Daly made to him in that interview. Henry said that he immediately froze when he heard the word, then quickly ended the segment and threw the broadcast back to the radio station.
The Star published comments in support of Daly from Willy T. Ribbs, who was the first African American to compete in the Indy 500 and who previously had raced in a Formula series in England. Ribbs said that while overseas, Daly “was the first driver to befriend me in a[n] environment I knew little about,” and he described the Irishman, who now lives in Indiana, as “one of my closest friends in a sport that has been very hostile to me.”
“As someone lucky enough to travel and work around the world, I have good friends and colleagues from almost every race, nationality, and religion,” Daly said. “I have always treated everybody with equal respect and they have done the same with me. … Similarly, I hope I have demonstrated my character during the past 20 years that I have spent working on television with a range of professionals of all backgrounds.”
Lamey, who had been dubbed “The Voice of the Colts,” has declined to comment, but an attorney representing him said in a statement, “Bob immediately apologized to the people involved for the comment and would hope that this error in judgment would not tarnish his long-held reputation in the sports community where he has been known as an accurate and passionate reporter.”
“Bob publicly acknowledged that last week he repeated an inappropriate word when telling a story,” the Colts said in a statement Wednesday. “He immediately apologized to the people who heard him use the word, and then promptly resigned. Bob has a long and storied history in our community, but he made a serious mistake.
“We are deeply disappointed the incident took place and offer our sincerest regrets to all who were impacted by Bob’s lack of judgment.”
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