Celebrity chef Paula Deen has compared herself to NFL-hopeful Michael Sam in a new interview in People Magazine set to hit newsstands this Friday.
“I feel like ‘embattled or ‘disgraced’ will always follow my name. It’s like that black football player who recently came out,” she told People. “He said, ‘I just want to be known as a football player. I don’t want to be known as a gay football player.’ I know exactly what he’s saying.”
Michael Sam is the successful college football player and NFL prospect who came out earlier this month, telling the New York Times, “Is this a huge deal? I understand it is. But my purpose and focus right now is playing football.”
Deen’s comments come as she tries to rebuild her food empire after admitting to using the n-word in the past. She issued a series of apologies, but still watched deals with companies like the Food Network and Wal-Mart disappear.
A judge ultimately dismissed the original lawsuit that had brought Deen’s use of the slur to light, and Deen has insisted repeatedly since the debacle began that she is not racist.
When the Today Show’s Matt Lauer asked her about whether or not she doubted that African-Americans would be offended by the n-word, Deen responded, “I have asked myself that so many times because it’s very distressing for me to go into my kitchens and I hear what these young people are calling each other. It’s very, very distressing.”
Deen has continued to receive criticism from those who believe she spent more time complaining about the backlash than apologizing for what she said.
“She continues to play the victim and send a signal to sponsors that she doesn’t understand the gravity of her words or race issues,” brand manager David Johnson told People.
“Some people said I never apologized. If anyone did not hear me, I want to apologize,” Deen said in her new interview with People. Her son Bobby seems to believe his mother is the victim, saying, “She was wronged.”
But her popularity did not dwindle everywhere. A poll taken in August, shortly before the lawsuit against her was dismissed, found her favorability rating with Georgia Republicans was higher than that of Martin Luther King, Jr. She topped the civil rights leader by a 14-point margin.
Earlier this month, Paula Deen Ventures announced a new multi-million dollar partnership with Najafi Companies.