Friday, July 31, 2009

McMackin and his f word

Greg McMackin embarked on his trip back to Hawaii yesterday trailed by a most unwelcome spotlight.

In the hours after the Hawaii football coach used a gay slur during a press conference at the Western Athletic Conference Football Preview, news of his remarks and subsequent apologies spread swiftly across the country and drew strong reactions back home.

Speaking to print reporters from around the conference, McMackin used the slur to describe a cheer the Notre Dame football team performed at last year's Sheraton Hawaii Bowl banquet.

During his press conference, McMackin discussed this year's team and was asked about the end of last season and the loss to Notre Dame. McMackin was speaking about how dueling chants at the Hawaii Bowl banquet may have inspired the Fighting Irish for the game when he described the Notre Dame cheer as "this little f----- dance."

A moment later, he repeated the term when asking the reporters in the room to "cover" for him, and continued with his comments on this year's team.

After finishing his remarks, McMackin returned to the interview room to apologize. He later made a more formal statement before heading to the airport for his return flight to Honolulu.

"I would sincerely like to apologize for the inappropriate verbiage and words that I used," McMackin said in his second apology. "I have nothing against the University of Notre Dame. I don't talk like that, I'm really ticked off at myself for saying that. I don't have any prejudices and it really makes me mad that I even said that. I'm disappointed in myself.

"What I was trying to do was be funny and it wasn't funny."

McMackin was in transit as school officials issued statements on the matter and what action the university might take upon his return hadn't been determined as of yesterday. McMackin is expected to meet with UH athletic director Jim Donovan first thing this morning.

Donovan declined to comment on possible disciplinary action yesterday, citing it as a personnel matter.

"Coach McMackin is a good man and cares for the University of Hawaii and the football program. He made a statement he shouldn't have made," Donovan said.

Gov. Linda Lingle said the remark was inappropriate and that the second-year coach realizes that.

"I think anybody who's in public life that talks a lot in public faces this problem," Lingle said. "I've certainly said things I wish I could take back and I know the Coach is feeling that way right now.

"Nobody's going be harder on him than he's going be on himself in this situation. I read his remarks in the paper. I know he's just kicking himself right now about it. I believe him when he says this is not who he is as a person and his players have backed that up."

* * *

[8/1/09] Choked with emotion, a tearful University of Hawai'i football coach Greg McMackin accepted a 30-day suspension without pay and a 7 percent cut in his salary, and vowed to "show leadership in dealing with both the football program and rebuilding respect for all people in our community" after using an anti-gay slur in making a disparaging remark about the Notre Dame team.

With more than 30 of his players crowding into yesterday's press conference at the Stan Sheriff Center to show support, UH announced that McMackin will coach the Warriors on a "volunteer" basis during his suspension and will also participate in activities with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Student Services on the Manoa campus.

He also will participate in a public service announcement on how words can hurt, and part of the money from his salary reduction will be used to support a student intern for the LGBT community to assist in campus awareness training.

UH still awaits word of what action the Western Athletic Conference might take under its sportsmanship policies.

"I felt this needed a strong reaction, a conclusive one and a swift one," said Manoa Chancellor Virginia S. Hinshaw.

McMackin is expected to forfeit approximately $169,000 from his $1.1 million annual salary for offensive remarks he made Thursday at the WAC Football Media Review in Salt Lake City that drew national attention.

Athletic director Jim Donovan said McMackin "felt strongly that regardless of what the penalty was he wanted to continue to coach and, in no way whatsoever did he want his players or the team to be (penalized). That indicates what kind of a guy he is."

Hinshaw said, "We didn't want to punish the wrong group in this situation. He felt strongly — and we did, too — that it would hurt the players, the team and the university. We thought that was a good resolution."

McMackin, who entered the press conference battling his emotions, stared solemnly as Donovan laid out the disciplinary action. Then McMackin attempted to hold back tears as he read a brief statement.

"I just made a big mistake," McMackin said. "I apologize to everyone and anyone I offended. I'm committed to do whatever I can as a life lesson to learn from my mistake.

"When we make mistakes, we have to learn from it and make better people of ourselves. ... (I'm) sorry I said something so hurtful and I am so remorseful."

McMackin added that "I offended the gay and lesbian community and now I want to work with the LGBT community on campus to use this as a teachable moment for me and hopefully others."

At that point, McMackin broke down and struggled to finish.

"(I am) very pained and disappointed in myself," he continued. "I hope to make up for some of the pain ... I made a mistake and now I have to show the leadership in dealing with both the football program and building respect for all people in our community."

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