Chattanoogan.com blogger and veteran sports broadcaster Randy Smith retracted his April 10 blogpost, apologized for quoting Geno Auriemma, head coach of University of Connecticut women’s basketball team The Huskies, out of context and denied that his blog included “an ethnic slur at Italian-Americans.” Auriemma is an Italian-American.
Smith’s original April 10 blogpost slammed Auriemma, whose team won the 2013 National Championship, for boasting in a press conference after a game:
“The fact that I tied Pat Summitt’s record puts you in the category of the greatest women’s basketball coach who ever lived.”
While Smith suggested Auriemma “may have just used the wrong words,” regardless, Smith argued Auriemma “needs to learn a big lesson in humility.”
Smith got complaints from about 90 UConn fans via email, he told iMediaEthics by email. (In addition, he said he received about ten emails “from Tennessee fans applauding my efforts.”) Smith also said that Auriemma’s daughter Alysa Auriemma sent “a very powerful letter to me in defense of her dad.” Auriemma’s daughter has drawn iMediaEthics’ attention before. Back in 2009, the Hartford Courant hired Alyssa Auriemma to blog about father’s team. Days after that hiring was announced to much ballyhoo, the Courant backed off and said she would just be an unpaid monthly blogger.
The newspaper was criticized for two main reasons. One, it was journalistically dubious to give the daughter of the coach of a team the newspaper covers a forum. Secondly, the Courant had, just weeks before this hiring, laid off many longtime staff members.
Smith admitted in his April 14 apology post responding to complaints that he only saw a portion of Auriemma’s press conference.
“My big mistake was not investigating further Geno’s complete press conference,” Smith confessed. “After I had read the entire transcript, I realized that I had made a huge mistake. Auriemma had been “very cordial and flattering” throughout the press conference.
Smith went on, acknowledging that Auriemma “did say the words I blasted him for saying … but they were certainly taken out of context. So again, I apologize to Coach Auriemma and all UConn fans for jumping to a very big, and very wrong conclusion.”
But Smith’s blogpost wasn’t all apologies. He rejected accusations from readers that he used the term “wop-sided” as “an ethnic slur,” and instead chalked it up to a colloquialism.
While Smith claimed that “wop-sided” is a Southern way of saying “a one-sided blow-out,” readers complained that he was negatively describing Italians, or suggested that he meant to use “lop-sided.”
Smith told iMediaEthics that Auriemma himself hasn’t contacted him about the blog or retraction and that no one at The Chattanoogan asked him to retract his blog. “I asked my editor if he thought I should,” Smith wrote to iMediaEthics. “He responded by saying it was up to me. I chose to write a retraction.”
When asked for further comment, Smith added that he teaches local high schoolers “a Media Concepts class…and ironically, one of our lessons recently was Ethics in Journalism.”