Marshall coach Bob Pruett has apologized for using a term that some consider to be a racial slur when speaking about Ohio State’s football team.
In his weekly news conference leading up to last Saturday’s game, Pruett called the Buckeyes “a bunch of Mandingos,” according to a story posted on USA Today’s Web site Tuesday night.
“By all means if it was offensive to anyone, I profusely apologize,” Pruett said. “I used it in an effort to explain superior physical ability.
“I was trying to be complimentary. I would consider it complimentary if someone called me a (Mandingo) warrior . . . ,” he said. “I didn’t mean it to be derogatory to anyone.”
Pruett should be reprimanded by Marshall for using the term, said Charles Farrell, director of Rainbow Sports, a division of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH coalition.
“The Mandingos (of West Africa) were known as big, strong people,” he said. “But their size and strength was an asset only for doing the work of slaves.
“You went out and said, ‘Let’s get ourselves a Mandingo because they’re big and strong and they can pick cotton all day long or they can chop wood all day long.’ Even if you’re trying to look for the original Mandingo connotation, it’s totally misplaced,” Farrell said.
Over the past several years, Pruett also has described opponents including Florida, Tennessee, Western Michigan and Clemson as “Mandingo warriors,” the newspaper reported.
“I see no place in football to refer to anybody as a Mandingo warrior,” Farrell said. “The usage is at best misplaced and at worst very derogatory.”
James Tolbert, who oversees the West Virginia branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the comment “smacks of some racism.”
But Sylvia Ridgeway, president of the NAACP’s Huntington-Cabell branch, said Pruett’s comments may have been the result of “a poor choice of words.”
“I have never, ever heard him make racial remarks before, which leads me to believe it was an indication of how he felt about strength and boldness, not anything negative,” she said.
Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger declined comment.