INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An off-the-air racial slur prompted the immediate retirement of longtime Indianapolis Colts radio voice Bob Lamey last weekend, team officials and Lamey’s attorney confirmed Wednesday.
Local attorney James Voyles issued a statement acknowledging the 80-year-old Lamey used “inappropriate” language during a conversation with a friend at a local radio station and apologized immediately.
“Bob does want to acknowledge that while repeating a story while off-the-air last week to a friend at a local radio station, he used an inappropriate word that had been used in the story,” Voyles’ statement read. “Bob immediately apologized to the people involved for the comment and would hope that this error in judgment would not tarnish his long-held reputation in the sports community where he has been known as an accurate and passionate reporter.”
A report on a local television’s station website, WTHR.com, claimed an employee at Emmis Communications heard the comment and reported it to the radio station’s human resources department, which then contacted the Colts.
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It’s not the first time Lamey’s words have caused controversy. But what happened last week the Colts found intolerable. The announcement of Lamey’s retirement after 31 years with the Colts came Sunday.
He was replaced on Monday night’s radio broadcast by Matt Taylor.
Initially, the Colts attempted to paint his departure as the celebration of a Hall of Fame broadcasting career that spanned five decades. But after word leaked about the conversation and Voyles issued his public statement Wednesday morning, the Colts immediately took a different tack.
“In regards to Bob Lamey … first and foremost, the Colts deplore and do not tolerate the use of any racial slur — in any context,” Colts chief operating officer Pete Ward wrote in an email. “Bob has had a long and storied history in our community, but he made a serious mistake. The Colts are deeply disappointed the incident took place and offer our sincerest regrets to all who were impacted by Bob’s lapse in judgment.”
Ward went on to say that the Colts only decided to comment after Lamey made his account.
Previously, there had been praise for Lamey as his retirement was announced on the weekend.
“Bob Lamey is a legend and icon,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said in Sunday’s release. “(His) name is synonymous with Indianapolis Colts football.”
Former players weighed in, too, as Lamey said simply “it’s time” to retire.
Players such as former punter Pat McAfee and right tackle Ryan Diem immediately weighed in on Twitter to praise Lamey. Reggie Wayne, the Colts’ second-leading receiver all-time, told local news station Fox 59 that Lamey was “the absolute best.”
Lamey’s previous outbursts included use of an expletive during a broadcast at the end of a Colts loss to the San Diego Chargers in September 2016. The next day he apologized to fans on the air and asked for their forgiveness.
He came close to uttering the same word during Indy’s come-from-behind win over New England in the 2006 AFC championship game after running back Dominic Rhodes lost the ball near the goal line.
“He fumbled the freakin’ football,” Lamey said before realizing teammate Jeff Saturday recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown.
There was another off-the-air outburst in December 2010 when Peyton Manning threw four interceptions in a loss to Dallas. Lamey privately questioned whether the NFL had “figured out” Manning and contemplated whether he should be benched in favor of backup Curtis Painter.
But his most recent comments were too much for the Colts.
“Bob publicly acknowledged that last week he repeated an inappropriate word when telling a story,” Ward wrote. “He immediately apologized to the people who heard him use the word, and then promptly retired as the Colts play-by-play announcer.”
Lamey served in that capacity for 31 seasons, from 1984-91 and again from 1995-2017 and was a fixture on local airwaves since the mid-1970s.
He broadcast games for the city’s hockey team, the WHA’s Racers, from 1974-77 — finishing those duties just before Wayne Gretzky joined the team. He served as the play-by-play man for the Indiana Pacers from 1977-84, and he also was part of the Indianapolis 500’s radio broadcast team for years.
For 23 years, Lamey served as the sports director for WIBC radio, and in 2008, Lamey was inducted into the Indiana Sports Broadcasters and Writers Hall of Fame in 2008.
Taylor, who has done sideline and studio work for the team, had taken over as the Colts’ play-by-play voice on the preseason broadcasts. Greg Rakestraw, another local radio announcer, will replace Taylor in the television booth.
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