The Minnesota Star Tribune editor Nancy Barnes apologized to readers who complained that columnist Jim Souhan’s comments on football coach Jerry Kill’s recent seizure were inappropriate, Jim Romenesko reported.
Kill coaches University of Minnesota’s football team the Gophers. He has epilepsy. On Sept. 14, he had a seizure during the Gophers’ game against Western Illinois’ the Leathernecks, Bleacher Report reported, adding that it was his “fourth seizure while on the job as Minnesota head coach.”
Souhan’s column questioned why the university hasn’t fired Kill given his having “four seizures during or after the 16 home games he has coached at the school, along with an unknown number of seizures away from the public eye.” Further, Souhan questioned why the university’s athletic director hasn’t commented on it.
Star Tribune editor Barnes, weighed in on the column in a letter to readers published by Romenesko. “On behalf of the Star Tribune, I apologize,” she write. “In no way did we intend to suggest that people with epilepsy, or other disabilities, should be hidden away. Nor did we intend to be callous or insensitive to their struggles.”
Souhan also responded in two blog posts to criticism of the column. First, in a Sept. 15 blog post, Souhan reported that he received “a few thousand emails expressing anger” and posted responses to “some of the most frequently-asked questions.”
While noting that he is “sympathetic to Kill,” Souhan maintained that he thinks Kill should be out of the job. He wrote:
“Yes, I understand that the University of Minnesota can’t and shouldn’t fire Jerry Kill because he has epileptic seizures. I do believe the administration should ask him to step aside, and believe Kill should do so.”
Souhan posted a follow-up blogpost saying that he does “regret” that readers think he was being malicious, City Pages reported.
In that Sept. 16 blog post, Souhan denied that he meant to be “insensitive to [Kill’s] condition and to other people with disabilities.” Souhan wrote:
“My opinion on the matter remains the same. Coaching big-time college football is a highly visible, competitive and stressful job. I don’t believe the head coach who is the face of such an enterprise can handle the duties while frequently suffering public seizures.
“What I have gathered from readers is that they believe I poked fun at Jerry, or demeaned his condition.
“I certainly wouldn’t do that intentionally and I regret that my tone in the column struck some readers that way.”
iMediaEthics has reached out to the University of Minnesota football team seeking comment on Souhan’s remarks from the school and Kill. We’ve also written to Souhan for comment and will update with any response.
CORRECTION - September 22, 2013 05:09 PM
Misstated in headline and once in the story that Kill coaches University of Michigan. He coaches at University of Minnesota. We regret the error. Thanks to reader Gerald Etkind for pointing out the error.