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Packer: “Tough Monkey” Not a Racial Comment

March 5, 1996 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Basketball commentator Billy Packer says he meant no racial overtones in his use of the term ``tough monkey″ to describe Allen Iverson.

In today’s editions of The Washington Post, Packer said he ``was not apologizing for what I said, because what I said has no implications in my mind whatsoever to do with Allen Iverson’s race.″

Packer made the comment while describing the Georgetown sophomore during Saturday’s CBS broadcast of the game between the Hoyas and Villanova at USAir Arena. CBS in New York, Washington’s CBS affiliate and Georgetown quickly received numerous complaints. Packer was informed, and he said on the air he meant no offense.

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``I only apologized to those people who have those sensibilities,″ Packer told the Post. ``But I also feel sorry for people like that because I don’t see things in terms of black and white.″

Packer met with Iverson and Georgetown coach John Thompson after the game, and Thompson said neither he nor Iverson was offended.

``One thing I do know about Billy ... is that he is not a racist,″ Thompson said.

Packer says he’s used the term ``tough monkey″ to describe white players in the past without incident.

``I don’t know why people are sensitive about something that to me, in my way of thinking, has absolutely nothing to do with race,″ Packer told the Post. ``Al Capone was a tough monkey. Mike Ditka was a tough monkey. Bobby Hurley was a tough monkey. It has absolutely nothing to do with genetics, so I don’t know how people make the connection. I don’t.

``I don’t think of Allen Iverson as a black player. I think of Allen Iverson as a player.″

Jesse Jackson, president of the National Rainbow Coalition, has asked CBS to take action against Packer. The Post reported that Jackson would try to arrange a telephone call with Packer today.

``Obviously this expansion of his comments shows him to be incredibly naive or insensitive,″ Jackson told the Post.