FAIRMONT, Minn. (AP) — An auto racing announcer in southern Minnesota is out for the rest of the season following a racist rant he made during a side gig in Iowa last month — and the Minnesota track promoter who supported him is now apologizing.
Fairmont Raceway promoter Jon McCorkell, in southern Minnesota, said he’s sorry for comments he made in support of longtime announcer Lon Oelke. Oelke was fired from his side gig at an Iowa racetrack last month after he complained about people who refuse to stand for the national anthem to take a stand against racial inequity.
McCorkell initially defended Oelke and said he would support him at Fairmont. But now he says he’s learned a lot about the issues behind the protest. The raceway said Oelke will take a leave of absence for the rest of the season, the Star Tribune reported.
“I realize that I cannot take back or fix what I said, but I would like to say I was wrong and I am sorry for the comments that I made last week,” McCorkell said in a statement released by the raceway.
“I have talked to many people on these issues over the last few days,” McCorkell said. “I learned a lot about what some of the underlying deeper issues are for a lot of people.
“I guess I have learned that you cannot always just look at things from your own perspective. Sometimes you have to keep an open mind and to try to look at what things are like from someone else’s perspective.”
The Fairmont track also canceled its Friday night race card, saying recent rains made the track unsuitable for racing.
Earlier this month, Oelke was announcing a race at the Kossuth County Speedway in Algona, Iowa, when he said he wanted to make “a public service announcement.” He went on to complain about people who take a knee or won’t stand for the national anthem.
“I’ve got four words for you: Find a different country if you won’t do it,” he said. “Get the hell out of Dodge.” He also criticized the NFL’s plans to play “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often called the Black national anthem, before games this season.
He said his remarks were “for those folks, I guess the darker-toned skin color, I’ll just say, Blacks. They want a different national anthem and the NFL is thinking about doing it. I just say shut the TVs off and let them play in front of nobody.”
McCorkell initially supported Oelke, saying the announcer would get a standing ovation the next time he was in Fairmont, a city of 10,000 residents 130 miles (210 kilometers) southwest of the Twin Cities. But last Friday, there was no ovation or special recognition of Oelke.