Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio apologized Wednesday for comments made the previous day during which he said that he does not "see racism at all in the NFL" while answering a question about the evolution of player activism.
"After reflecting on my comments yesterday and listening to the players this morning, I realize what I said regarding racism and discrimination in the NFL was wrong," Fangio said in a statement released by the team. "While I have never personally experienced those terrible things first-hand during my 33 years in the NFL, I understand that many players, coaches and staff have different perspectives. I should have been more clear and I am sorry.
"I wanted to make the point yesterday that there is no color within the locker rooms I have been in or on the playing fields I have coached on. Unfortunately, we don't live or work only within those confines. Outside of those lines -- both in the NFL and society -- there is a lot of work to be done in the areas of diversity and providing opportunities across the board for minorities.
"As the head coach, I look forward to listening to the players -- both individually and collectively -- to support them and work hand-in-hand to create meaningful change."
Fangio's Tuesday comments were widely criticized and drew the attention of former Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who played for Fangio last season in Denver. "I'm confused lol," Harris wrote on Twitter in response to an article on Fangio's statement.
The comments came during Fangio's first news conference since protests have occurred throughout the nation following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer last week.
"I don't know that it's changed a whole lot, to be honest with you," Fangio said when asked how player activism has evolved. "I haven't seen a great, great change other than -- I just don't think there's been a tremendous change, and I don't say that to be negative. I think our problems in the NFL along those lines are minimal. We're a league of meritocracy. You earn what you get, you get what you earn. I don't see racism at all in the NFL. I don't see discrimination in the NFL. We live in a great atmosphere. Like I alluded to earlier, we're lucky. We all live together joined as one for one common goal, and we all intermingle and mix tremendously. If society reflected an NFL team, we'd all be great."
Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy appeared on ESPN Radio Wednesday morning and said he agreed with Fangio's comment that the league is a meritocracy on the field, but that issues clearly remain.
"To say there's no racism and no problem, I think, really is not recognizing the situation," Dungy said, per ESPN.com. "As you said, the league has talked about having 70-75 percent African American players and no black [team] presidents, just a couple of black general managers. ... It is not a complete meritocracy, even though it's a great place. And I think the same thing could be said of our country."
Fangio began his Tuesday session with reporters addressing Floyd's death.
"I was shocked, sad and angry when I saw the policeman do to a handcuffed George Floyd on his stomach that led to his death,'' Fangio said. "[Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin] should be punished to the full extent of the law of the crimes he was charged with, in addition to being charged with treason for failing to uphold the badge and uniform he was entrusted with. ... It's a societal issue that we all have to join in to correct.''
The Broncos used Tuesday's virtual team meetings to discuss Floyd's death and that ensuing protests across the nation. Team president/CEO Joe Ellis addressed the entire team, coaching staff and members of football leadership directly and was joined by Fangio and general manager John Elway.