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Reggie White Asks For Forgiveness

Reggie White said Thursday he may have used inappropriate examples of racial differences in remarks to Wisconsin lawmakers during a speech that also criticized homosexuality.

White faxed a statement to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in which he said he didn't intend to slight anyone in his March 25 address to the state Assembly.

"First, I made a point that our society is fortunate to be comprised of different races and cultures. I must admit that my examples may have been somewhat clumsy and inappropriate on how the races differ, but my intent was not to demean anyone," White said in the statement that was published in Friday's editions.

"If I did, I humbly ask for your forgiveness," he said.

"I did conclude the point by stressing that it takes all of our combined characteristics and qualities to reflect the full image of God."

During his speech last week, White said each race had different gifts. Asians are so inventive, for instance, that "they can turn a television into a watch," he said.

White also condemned homosexuality as a sin and a personal choice. His letter says: "I must stress that I in no way intended for my comments to personally hurt anyone, and for that, I apologize. But I do not apologize for standing on God's word when it comes to sin in my life and others. My attitude is to hate the sin and love the sinner."

Sponsors haven't been quick to castigate White or sever ties with a man long seen as one of sport's true role models.

White's future as a pitchman seems secure. None of his sponsors have said they're dropping him and one, the makers of Edge shaving gel, says it's sticking by the Green Bay Packers star.

That's in stark contrast to a situation last year when sponsors promptly dumped golfer Fuzzy Zoeller over racial remarks aimed at Tiger Woods.

James V. Pokrywczynski, a Marquette University advertising professor and sports marketing researcher, said he's not surprised that corporations haven't dropped White like a hot potato.

Because White is an ordained minister and his comments weren't directed at any one ethnic group, but many, companies apparently don't feel compelled to drop White to save face with consumers, Pokrywczynski said.

"The fact that he is known as a minister and has preached the word over the years gives him a sort of underlying level of credibility and respect that maybe a Fuzzy Zoeller didn't have," Pokrywczynski said.

White's speech "didn't leave anybody out," he added. "People could interpret that as a poor choice of words, but he wasn't making fun of anybody in particular or going after one particular group."

"And, was there an apparent intent to slur? No."

In five seasons in Green Bay, White has been one of the Packers' most visible pitchen. His national endorsements include the one for Edge with Brett Favre. White also hawks Fords on local television.

Cynthia Georgeson, spokeswoman for S.C. Johnson & Son, the maker of Edge shaving gel, said: "It was very clear that Reggie's comments were his own personal comments and did not reflect those of anyone else. At this point we don't anticipate a change in the status of his contract."

Although White's one-year contract to promote Campbell Soup Co.'s products expired this week, company spokeswoman Ronni Heyman refused to say whether its association with White would end.

Homosexual rights organizations have asked Campbell to sever ties with White, much like sponsors quickly dropped golfer Zoeller last spring for his comments about Woods.

Zoeller saluted the play of "that little boy" after Woods won the Masters, and joked that he hoped Woods wouldn't select fried chicken and collard greens for this year's champions' dinner.

Athletic shoe giant Nike is still trying to contact White to discuss his remarks before making a decision on his future, said spokesman Vada Manager from the company's headquarters in Portland.

Mike Peterson, owner of Peterson Ford in Oconto Falls and a member of the board of directors for the Packerland Ford Dealers, declined comment on White's remarks, saying the board meets later this month and will address the issue then.

During his address, White said the United States had gotten away from God, in part by allowing homosexuality to "run rampant."

He also said each racial or ethnic group has its own "gifts" that taken together "form a complete image of God," and used a litany of stereotypes of blacks, Hispanics, whites, American Indians and Asians.

Immediately following the speech, he told reporters he tried to show that the races must put aside their differences and work together.

© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved

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