Howard Cosell Could Have Told Them No

The NBA’s Sacramento Kings were planning to celebrate the Lunar New Year last night by giving away “Year of the Monkey” t-shirts at its game with the Milwaukee Bucks. After DeMarcus Cousins and other Kings players saw the t-shirts on the first day of Black History Month, they protested and stadium attendants went through the arena, removing the shirts from the seats.

On September 5, 1983, the Washington Redskins were hosting the Dallas Cowboys on ABC-TV’s Monday Night Football. During the first half, Redskins wide receiver Alvin Garrett, an African-American who at five-foot-seven was short for an NFL receiver, caught a pass. Howard Cosell, part of the MNF announcing team along with Frank Gifford and Don Meredith, said: “That little monkey gets loose doesn’t he?”

Garrett caught 10 passes that night; the Cowboys beat the Redskins 31-30. The next day the Southern Christian Leadership Conference called the Cosell comment racist and demanded an apology. Cosell was defended by, among others, Jesse Jackson, Muhammad Ali, and Garrett himself—Cosell said he often called his grandchildren little monkeys. But the fallout contributed to his retiring and the next year he was replaced in the MNF booth by O.J. Simpson.

Here’s Len Shapiro’s next day story  in the Washington Post about Cosell’s comment and the controversy that followed.

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