Sports talk radio host Paul Finebaum offered a lengthy apology Saturday morning for calling former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney “the biggest joke in college football” last fall.
Finebaum, making his first trip to Columbia since those comments last fall, said he crossed a line speaking his mind before he had all the facts. He called South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner two days after his comment, explaining himself. He also said he’ll reach out to Jadeveon Clowney and personally apologize in the future.
Here’s what apology and explanation Finebaum gave Saturday:
“I had a fascinating first year at ESPN. When you’re a commentator, you speak your mind. You don’t get mulligans. If there was something I could take back, it would be that moment.
“It was on ESPN the Monday after. We sat there. They played Spurrier’s comment. I reacted, because I read a lot into what (Spurrier) said, and I deeply regret it. I called Ray two days later after he spoke out in Fayetteville. (Tanner lambasted Finebaum for the comment.) We had a great conversation. It wasn’t one of these screaming matches. I just said, ‘I want to explain to you, I didn’t mean it.’ And he explained to me what he said.
“I do regret not personally apologizing to Jadeveon Clowney, because frankly, I will. I should. And I’m going to make an effort to. I just thought I’d let everything cool down. It was the wrong thing to say for someone in my position. Just because you think something at the moment doesn’t mean you should say it. I knew better, and I said it, and I think it was hurtful, and I’m truly sorry.
“This is my first trip back to Columbia since then, and I thought I would wait to use this opportunity to address it, because it is an elephant in the room. I’ve been reminded by many, many people. I’m rooting for him. I hope he’s the first player taken. I think he will be the first player taken. He’s a young person who, for whatever reason, had a couple of off games. I didn’t know all the reasons. Because of the relationship I had with Spurrier, I should have called him. But instead I interpreted that he must really be mad to make that statement, and I reacted to Spurrier instead of thinking, ‘This is a young kid who’s doing his best and is just having a tough time.’ For someone who’s been in the business for 30 years, who’s done a lot of the things I’ve done as a writer and broadcaster, I should’ve known better.”