They were the worst we’ve heard in American sports since NBA great Tim Hardaway told Dan Le Bartard “I hate gay people” in 2007.
In case you haven’t heard, the Hall of Fame coach of the West Virginia men’s basketball team called fans of Xavier in what was, until then, a light-hearted interview with Bill Cunningham, radio host at Cincinnati’s WLW.
We’ve seen and heard people drop slurs like that in sports many times, often in the heat of a game or caught on a hot mic. It’s usually a quick burst that creeps into the public sphere, and we’re left wondering if that was just a one-off.
Huggins didn’t stop with the first slur. He paused and doubled down, this time calling Xavier fans.
Not to outdo himself, he went back in a third time, making a crack about transgender people not having penises, or some such nonsense (the whole part of the conversation revolved around Huggins’ claims about fans throwing rubber penises onto a basketball court).
His non-apology — refusing to mention the LGBTQ community and call out homophobia specifically — was the cherry on top of an unfolding disaster.
Huggins then made a reference to an incident in which “rubber penises” were thrown on the court during a Crosstown Shootout game between UC and Xavier.
Later Monday, Huggins released a statement, saying “I deeply apologize to the individuals I have offended.”
Stewart Mandel, a columnist for The Athletic, compared Huggins’ comments to Thom Brennaman’s from 2020, when a hot mic caught the former Cincinnati Reds announcer saying “the capitals of the world.”
“If this is the end for Bob Huggins, it’s such a Cincinnati sports story,” Mandel tweeted before putting the next three sentences in bullet points. “Bill Cunningham has been on the radio there since I was a kid, and I’m 47. A Crosstown Shootout grudge from 30 years ago. Huggins using the same exact awful slur that got Thom Brennamen fired.”
WCPO 9 anchor Evan Millward brought back a tweet from 2020, in which Huggins brought Brennaman in to speak to his team after the on-air incident to talk about accountability.
“Huggins had Thom Brennaman speak to his team about accountability – after Brennaman lost his job over use of the SAME HOMOPHOBIC SLUR. Let that sink in,” Millward tweeted.
Mike Asti, reporter for WV Sports Now in West Virginia tweeted, “I wasn’t going to address it without audio, but this is bad. Bob Huggins has done a lot for WVU and college basketball and has been having a great offseason, but this is impossible to defend.”
Later Monday, Huggins issued a statement saying he “used a completely insensitive and abhorrent phrase that there is simply no excuse for — and I won’t try to make one here. I deeply apologize to the individuals I have offended, as well as to the Xavier University community, the University of Cincinnati and West Virginia University.
“As I have shared with my players over my 40 years of coaching, there are consequences for our words and actions, and I will fully accept any coming my way. I am ashamed and embarrassed and heartbroken for those I have hurt. I must do better, and I will.”
In a separate statement, West Virginia’s athletic department said Huggins’ remarks “were insensitive, offensive and do not represent our University values. Coach Huggins has since apologized. West Virginia University does not condone the use of such language and takes such actions very seriously. The situation is under review and will be addressed by the University and its athletics department.”
Huggins spent 16 seasons at Cincinnati before being fired in 2005 in a power struggle with the school’s president as well as the aftermath of a 2004 drunken driving arrest. After spending one season at Kansas State, Huggins took his dream job at West Virginia, his alma mater, in 2007.
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