Annals of ABC-TV Stars Making Comments About People and Primates

After Roseanne Barr lost her ABC-TV show by tweeting that former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett resembled a primate—”muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj”—sports fans may remember a Howard Cosell ABC-TV comment that didn’t get him immediately fired but did derail his career.

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. 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.

Truth is again stranger than fiction.

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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