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Derek Daly admits to using slur, but not in the way Lamey described it

August 23, 2018

Auto racing analyst Derek Daly, who was fired Wednesday night by WISH-TV for using a racial slur more than 30 years ago, admitted Thursday that he did indeed use the n-word during a radio interview in the early 1980s.

But the former race car driver said former Indianapolis Colts broadcaster Bob Lamey was completely inaccurate in his retelling of the incident. Lamey—the “Voice of the Colts” for more than three decades—abruptly “retired” Sunday after he acknowledged using “an inappropriate word” when retelling a story about a driver who turned out to be Daly.

Daly, 65, a native of Ireland, said he had just relocated to the United States about the time of the incident and didn’t realize how derogatory the n-word was when he repeated a phrase that he says was common in Ireland.

“In the early 80’s, after I had recently relocated to the United States, I was interviewed by radio reporter Larry Henry and I was asked about my situation with my new American team,” Daly said in an email to IBJ, which appears in its entirety at the end of this story. “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.

“At the time, I meant that I, as the new foreigner on the team, would shoulder the blame and I would be the scapegoat. 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.”

Daly, who worked for WISH for 30 years, said it wasn't long before he found out about his mistake.

“After moving to the United States, I quickly learned what a derogatory term it was," he said. "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.”

Lamey's version of the story referred to drivers holding back their speed.

WISH-TV officials declined to comment on Daly's statement.

Daly competed nearly two decades as a race car driver before becoming an analyst. He drove in the Indianapolis 500 every year but one from 1983 through 1989.

Willy T. Ribbs, a retired African-American race driver who competed against Daly in the 1980s, said Thursday in an unsolicited email to IBJ that he has been friends with Daly for 41 years and gave him his support.

Ribbs, the first African-American driver to compete in the Indy 500, said he said found racing to be a "very hostile" environment for him at times, but always received help from Daly along the way. Ribbs said Daly was the first driver to befriend him in England in 1977 when he began his racing career in the Formula Ford Series.

Ribbs said he and Daly visited Muhammad Ali together at Ali's home in Los Angeles in 1984. "The champ loved him," Ribbs said.

Daly also helped Ribbs get his first IndyCar deal with Raynor Racing in 1990 and attended his wedding earlier this year.

Following is the complete text of Daly’s statement:

“Last night WISH-TV severed ties with me after former sports broadcaster Bob Lamey

apparently inaccurately attributed a racial slur to me during an interview in the early 80’s.

It was reported on their web site that I confirmed this. Both of these reports are factually

incorrect. 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.

The facts are:

In the early 80’s, after I had recently relocated to the United States, I was interviewed by

radio reporter Larry Henry and I was asked about my situation with my new American

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. At the time, I

meant that I, as the new foreigner on the team, would shoulder the blame and I would be

the scapegoat. 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.

As someone lucky enough to travel and work around the world, I have good friends and

colleagues from almost every race, nationality, and religion. I have always treated

everybody with equal respect and they have done the same with me. Anyone who

questions that should talk to them. 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.

Finally, I want everyone to know I deeply regret and sincerely apologize for what I said

more than three decades ago.”

 

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