Monday, December 15, 2003
Updated: December 17, 2:05 PM ET
Morton also called comment 'unacceptable'
ESPN.com news services
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Once again, Detroit Lions president Matt Millen opened his mouth out of frustration -- and created controversy.
Millen, rebuffed in his efforts to congratulate Chiefs receiver Johnnie Morton following Kansas City's 45-17 victory over Detroit on Sunday, responded by calling the former Lion a "fa----."
According to a report in Monday's editions of the Kansas City Star, Millen claimed he was angry that Morton, who has criticized him in the past following his 2001 release by Detroit, ignored him after the game. It was then that Millen made the remark. The sequence of events was confirmed by Morton.
"What happened was I was just walking by," Morton told The Star. "I wasn't going to say anything to him. I walked past him and he said, 'Hey, Johnnie.' I ignored him. And then he said, 'Nice talking to you.' And I said, 'Kiss my ass.' "
According to the report, Millen then yelled "You faggot! Yeah, you heard me. You faggot!" at Morton. Both Chiefs public relations staffer Patrick Herb and 61 Sports radio reporter Rhonda Moss told The Star that they heard Millen's comments.
"He said it in front of everybody," Herb told the newspaper. "There were plenty of witnesses."
Morton apparently did not hear Millen's remark when it was said. When it was relayed to him afterward, Morton expressed disappointment.
"I apologize for what I said, but I never expected anything like that [response]," Morton told The Star. "What he said is demeaning and bigoted. Jeremy Shockey got in trouble for saying it about a coach [Bill Parcells], and now we have a president of a team making statements like that. It's totally unacceptable. I have gay friends, and I don't even joke around with them like that."
Shockey, a tight end for the New York Giants, reportedly called Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells "a homo" in a magazine interview this summer. Shockey claimed that he had been misquoted, later apologized and was not fined.
Millen issued a statement later Sunday:
"After the game, I was passing the Chiefs' locker room when I stopped to congratulate some of their players," the statement read. "I was talking with Vonnie Holliday, Trent Green, Tony Gonzalez and one of the coaches, Joe Vitt. I wished all those guys the best and good luck in the playoffs.
"I then saw Johnnie, and I tried to wish him the best and congratulate him as well. When I called out to him, he just kept walking and then made a derogatory remark toward me, which really upset me. Unfortunately, I retaliated with a derogatory term directed toward Johnnie.
"I apologize if I offended anyone. It certainly was not meant to do anything other than express my frustration and disappointment."
This isn't the first time Millen has drawn attention with off-the-cuff remarks. He was widely panned last season for referring to one of his players as a "devout coward" during a radio interview.