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ESPN's Colin Cowherd defends Dominican Republic remark: 'It was data'

ESPN host Colin Cowherd implied people from the Dominican Republic aren't very smart on his radio show Thursday.
Colin Cowherd ESPN morning show sports personality (Photo by Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times/Getty).
Colin Cowherd (light blue shirt), ESPN morning show sports personality in Los Angeles, Calif.

ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd is under fire for remarks he made about Dominicans on his radio show Wednesday, while defending the Miami Marlins' decision to allow its general manager to step into the dugout and handle the team's day-to-day managerial duties.

“It’s baseball,’’ Cowherd said. “You don’t think a general manager can manage? Like it’s impossible? The game is too complex? I’ve never bought into that, ‘Baseball’s just too complex.’ Really? A third of the sport is from the Dominican Republic.’’

That statement didn't sit well with the roughly 10% of Major League players who hail from that island nation. Toronto Blue Jays All-Star Jose Bautista politely suggested Cowherd, who is leaving ESPN for a gig at Fox Sports, clarify his comments over Twitter.

On his radio show Friday, Cowherd did address the controversy, but offered a defense in lieu of a direct apology. "I understand that when you mention a specific country, they get offended," Cowherd said. "I get it. I do. And for that, I feel bad. I do. But I have four reports in front of me ... where there are discussions of major deficiencies in the education sector at all levels.... It wasn't a shot at them. It was data. Five, seven years ago I talked about the same subject. Was I clunky? Perhaps. Did people not like my tone? I get it. Sometimes my tone stinks."

According to USA Today, Dominicans aren't the only ones offended by Cowherd's "analysis." A source close to the league's players union told the paper that they want to see a response from both ESPN and Fox Sports and are considering withholding cooperation from both networks until they do.

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"Some of Colin’s comments yesterday referencing the Dominican Republic were inappropriate and do not reflect ESPN’s values of respect for all communities," a spokesperson for ESPN told msnbc on Friday in a statement. The network later added that "Colin will no longer appear on ESPN."

Cowherd apologized for his remarks Friday afternoon on Twitter.

This isn't the first time Cowherd has been criticized for cultural insensitivity. Over the course of his 12 years at ESPN, he has consistently been a lightening rod on the issue of race. 

In 2010, Washington Wizard's point guard John Wall celebrated a win by doing a thirty-second dance, popularly known as "The Dougie." For Cowherd, that "arrogant" display was proof that Wall would never be a great NBA player. That may seem like a lot to extrapolate from a single dance, but to Cowherd, the dance was indicative of a larger problem -- Wall never learned basic discipline, because his dad died when he was 8 years old.

“Let me tell you something, I’m a big believer, when it comes to quarterbacks and point guards: Who’s your dad? Who’s your dad?" Cowherd said at the time. "Strong families equal strong leaders.”

Cowherd expanded on that premise the following year, when several African-American NFL players accused the league's commissioner Roger Goodell of giving harsher penalties to black players than he did to white ones. To Cowherd, the real problem these players were reacting to wasn't the commissioner's lack of fairness but their community's dearth of decent fathers.

"Here's something that's interesting if you look at basic metrics or numbers in this country -- 71% of African-American men: no dad at home. No disciplinarian. Fathers are often the louder voice, the disciplinarian. Many of those kids don't grow up with a dad," Cowherd said. "The NFL is one of the first places where many star players finally see discipline. Finally have an authoritative male figure: Buck stops here, I make all the calls, you will not get an opinion."

And this March, when Cowherd was asked about why he liked the state of Oregon so much during a discussion of the NCAA college basketball tournament, he said: "How about wonderful people, mostly white, that drink lots of beer and wine."