NEW YORK — An embarrassed CBS fired a contrite Jimmy (The Greek) Snyder Saturday after the sports commentator said in a much-criticized television interview that blacks were "bred" to be better athletes than whites.
Snyder, who outraged civil rights leaders with this and other remarks about blacks in sports, reiterated a "heart-felt apology" he made after the interview was televised Friday, but raised the possibility he may sue CBS for dropping him.
He said that CBS executives wanted him to resign, but he refused and was fired by Neal Pilson, president of CBS Sports, who called Snyder from Hawaii.
Snyder said in a statement read by a CBS spokesman that he has "referred this matter" to his lawyer, former Republican Sen. Paul Laxalt of Nevada, "who is looking into it. Accordingly, I will have no further comment at this time."
Los Angeles Times Friday January 22, 1988 Home Edition Sports Part 3 Page 3 Column 6 Sports Desk 3 inches; 73 words Type of Material: Correction
For the record: It has been erroneously reported that Ed Hotaling, the TV reporter who did the infamous interview with Snyder last Friday, is black. He is white. The error was first made by the Washington Post, then edited into The Times' story that appeared in last Sunday's late editions. In the same story, CBS spokesman Doug Richardson was cited as the person who interrupted a conversation between Times reporter Jay Sharbutt and Snyder. Richardson said he was not on the phone; it was Snyder's son-in-law, Jim Robinson.
However, speaking from his Washington hotel in a brief phone interview, Snyder, for 12 years a commentator on the "NFL Today" pregame show, seemed willing to answer questions. But he was prevented from doing so by CBS spokesman Doug Richardson.
Asked if he may sue CBS, Snyder, 70, vaguely replied, "We just want to be protected. We shouldn't say anything . . . ." He was interrupted by Richardson, who had read Snyder's statement to a reporter.
Asked why he made his controversial remarks Friday, Snyder again tried to respond, only to be interrupted again by Richardson, who was sharing the same phone. "He's a good guy--he wants to talk and he shouldn't," Richardson said.
"I'll talk to you later, OK?" Snyder told the reporter. CBS, in a separate statement Saturday, said CBS Sports had "ended its relationship" with Snyder following his remarks. It said the remarks in no way "reflect the views of CBS Sports."
Snyder, known for his predictions, was in Washington with "NFL Today" colleagues Brent Musburger and Irv Cross for today's National Football Conference championship game between the Washington Redskins and the Minnesota Vikings.
He has been dropped from today's telecast.
Snyder's one-year contract, reportedly worth about $750,000, was due to expire soon.
Snyder made his comments in a lunchtime interview Friday at Duke Zeibert's, a Washington restaurant.
His interviewer was Ed Hotaling, a black producer-reporter for NBC-owned WRC-TV. Hotaling said Saturday he had just come from covering a memorial to slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., where a tape of King's famous "I have a dream" speech was played.
Hotaling said he'd been doing interviews with various people in the restaurant, asking what they thought the next step in civil rights progress for blacks should be. He put the question to Snyder.
"It was all on the occasion of Martin Luther King's birthday," Hotaling said. "So I thought it was an appropriate, forward-looking question, and got a backward-looking answer."
In the interview, Snyder, whose remarks were termed "reprehensible" by CBS, said that the only sports realm in which whites now dominate is coaching, and if blacks "take coaching, as I think everyone wants them to, there is not going to be anything left for the white people."
Snyder, who during his remarks emphasized he was not meaning to be "derogatory," said the only thing now that "whites control are the coaching jobs--the black talent is beautiful, it's great, it's out there. The only thing left for the whites is a couple of coaching jobs."
He also said that black athletes perform better than white athletes for reasons that went back to slave times.
"The slave owner would breed his big black (man) to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid . . . . That's where it all started," he said.
While Hotaling said he was "stunned" and appalled by Snyder's remarks, he thought it "outrageous they (CBS) fired him." He said there should be far more reporting on civil rights in sports, and with Snyder participating in the coverage.
"I think it (the interview) was about the best possible Martin Luther King Day story you could have because it brings everything out in the open," Hotaling said in a phone interview from Washington.
"And I think maybe one of the few people who might have agreed with me that Jimmy the Greek should not be fired would have been Martin Luther King.
"I think you have to think a little more broadly than firing a sports commentator for expressing stupid comments about civil rights. You should start covering the story and let him learn something."
One way, he suggested, would be to put Snyder on today's "NFL Today" broadcast and discuss his remarks, and civil rights, with black and white athletes.
"His views would be expressed a little more adequately, I think," Hotaling said. "He wouldn't come out to be such a bad guy. They'd have the thing resolved in a positive way instead of a negative way."
Snyder was quoted by the Washington Post as saying: "I told (Pilson) I wanted to face everyone (on today's program). He told me, 'I can't let you do that.' "