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Gaston apologizes, but doesn’t back down, for racial comments

April 17, 1997 GMT

TORONTO (AP) _ Cito Gaston apologized Thursday for suggesting earlier in the week that three local reporters were racists. The apology, however, came with a strong qualification.

``I’ve got one statement that I’m going to say ... and I’m not going to say another word,″ the Toronto manager said before the Blue Jays’ 5-4 victory over Oakland.

``Whatever has been said, whatever has been written, if it has offended someone and it’s unjustly offended them, I apologize. If it hasn’t, then I don’t apologize.″

When pressed, Gaston said neither he nor his family has experienced racism in Toronto.

The Blue Jays said they plan to meet with the three reporters.

``Naturally, we are concerned about the situation involving Cito Gaston and the three Toronto journalists,″ team president Paul Beeston said. ``We have had discussions (Wednesday) with all the parties involved and they have agreed to have individual meetings late next week when the Blue Jays return for their three-game homestand.″

The Toronto Sun said that Gaston, in an interview earlier in the week, concluded racism was behind some of the criticism directed at him from reporters.

``There’s a couple who continue to take shots at me for no reason at all,″ he said. ``I just wonder if they would take the same shot at me if I was white.″

He was critical of Sun columnist Steve Simmons and Globe and Mail sports editor Dave Langford.

During a pregame interview Tuesday, when baseball celebrated the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, Gaston criticized all-sports talk show host Bob McCown.

Gaston was asked by broadcaster Jerry Howarth if some criticism of him, including McCown’s, was racially motivated.

``What else can they be, Jerry?″ Gaston replied. ``I’ve never done anything to this man. There are a few others in this city. ... After a while you just wonder what you have to do...″

McCown, Simmons and Langford all rejected Gaston’s comments.

``I have said on the air many times that it was possible, maybe probable, that my opinion of him as a manager is clouded by my dislike for him,″ McCown told the Globe. ``I’ve willingly acknowledged that I may be biased. But I’m not a racist.″

``It’s the farthest thing from the truth,″ said Langford.

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``I’m not surprised,″ Simmons told the Sun. ``If you disagree with Cito, you’re a racist. ... I put my opinion on the line and it has nothing to do with race, color or anything else.″

Howarth apologized to Gaston and McCown for his role, saying he mishandled the interview with the manager.

Gaston raised the issue of racism in spring training, contending not enough is done to promote the accomplishments of minorities. He also said there is a racial element to his perceived lack of respect.

``I have to get on you guys (media) for some of this,″ he said at the time when the subject of black managers was broached. ``There haven’t been that many since Frank Robinson and certainly no one has said what type of job I’ve done.

``No one has gone out and said: `Look what Cito has done here (by winning two World Series). Now maybe we can have some black guys managing.′

``It has been the other way around. I get ripped from one end of town (to the other) and whether it’s racism or whatever, it’s not doing any good (for job prospects of other blacks).″

First baseman Joe Carter and hitting coach Willie Upshaw, both black, supported their manager, saying Gaston has not gotten his due.