Derek Daly has rejected claims that he was the source of a racial slur that led to Sunday’s sudden retirement of longtime Indianapolis Colts announcer Bob Lamey.
Lamey resigned this week after repeating a story off-air to a colleague from a local radio station that included a racially-sensitive word, and later attributed the original remark, said to have taken place during an interview 35 years earlier, to Daly.
In a statement on Thursday, Daly, who has consequently been cut from his longtime role as WISH-TV racing analyst, said that Lamey had tied the story to him incorrectly, but admitted using the word in question during another interview with a different reporter during the same period. In that case however, Daly said that it was spoken in the context of a once-common phrase that had no derogatory overtones, and that he was unaware at the time of the weight that such language carries in the United States.
“Last night WISH-TV severed ties with me after former sports broadcaster Bob Lamey apparently inaccurately attributed a racial slur to me during an interview in the early ’80s,” he said in the statement.
“It was reported on their website that I confirmed this. Both of these reports are factually incorrect. On this subject, I was never interviewed by Bob Lamey. The slanderous statements made by Bob, and now being attributed to me, are not only factually incorrect, but offensive.
“The facts are: In the early ’80s, after I had recently relocated to the United States, I was interviewed by radio reporter Larry Henry and I was asked about my situation with my new American team. I responded by explaining that I was a foreign driver now in America, driving for an American team, with an American crew, and with an American sponsor – and that if things did not go well, the only “n***** in the wood pile” would be me.
“At the time, I meant that I, as the new foreigner on the team, would shoulder the blame and I would be the scapegoat. This was not in any way shape or form meant to be a racial slur. This phrase was commonly used in Ireland, Britain, and Australia.
“When I used that phrase in the early ’80s, I had no idea that in this country that phrase had a horribly different meaning and connotation, as it was commonplace in Ireland. After moving to the United States, I quickly learned what a derogatory term it was. When I was first informed of this, I was mortified at the offense I might have caused people. I have therefore never used the word since. I made this mistake once, but never again.
“As someone lucky enough to travel and work around the world, I have good friends and colleagues from almost every race, nationality, and religion. I have always treated everybody with equal respect and they have done the same with me. Anyone who questions that should talk to them. Similarly, I hope I have demonstrated my character during the past 20 years that I have spent working on television with a range of professionals of all backgrounds.
“Finally, I want everyone to know I deeply regret and sincerely apologize for what I said more than three decades ago.
“Respectfully, Derek Daly.”
Longtime friend Willy T. Ribbs, who has spoken frequently and openly of the discrimination he experienced as an African–American Trans Am, CART, IndyCar and NASCAR driver during the 1980s and 1990s, reached out to RACER to speak in Daly’s defense when news of the latter’s split with WISH broke.
“Derek Daly was the first driver to befriend me in an environment I knew little about,” Ribbs said, recalling his arrival in England to race in Formula Ford in 1977.
“1984, Derek Daly and I visited our hero Muhammad Ali at his home in Los Angeles, and The Champ loved him. That same night after meeting with The Champ, we were attacked in a parking lot by some thugs that looked like skinheads, and we kicked the &*%$ out of them.
“[In] 1990, Derek Daly helped facilitate my first IndyCar deal with Raynor Racing. August 18th, 2018, one of my closest friends in a sport that has been very hostile to me was at my wedding, 41 years after meeting in the UK. That’s Derek Daly.”