Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco apologized Tuesday for what he called a bad choice of words when responding to a question about cold-weather cities hosting Super Bowls.
Flacco was asked by a columnist from Denver if he had an opinion on the decision to hold next year’s Super Bowl in New York and the possibility of the city of Denver convincing the NFL to deliver the big game to Sports Authority Field at Mile High sometime in the next decade.
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“Yeah, I think it’s retarded,’’ he said. “I guess I shouldn’t say that [word]. I think it’s stupid. If you want to have a Super Bowl, put a retractable dome on your stadium, then you can get one. Other than that, I don’t really like the idea. I don’t think it would suit us badly. I think we would react very well to it and would be glad to play anybody in that kind of weather. I can’t see that really being a good idea.”
During Media Day on Tuesday, Flacco said he regretted using the term.
"It was a bad choice of words," Flacco said. "I have a great relationship with Special Olympics back in Baltimore and have had one for many years. I didn't mean to offend anybody but I definitely apologize for that."
The uttering is drawing criticism from some, including Special Olympics Maryland, whose annual fundraiser the MSP Polar Bear Plunge Flacco has co-chaired. The organization is standing by Flacco, though.
"We're glad to see he took it back immediately and recognized that he kind of made a slip," said Special Olympics Maryland spokeswoman Linda Ellingsworth. "We’re still supportive of him and look forward to working with him in the future."
The organization has been in contact with Flacco's marketing agent about the quarterback possibly releasing a statement of some kind, but had not received any feedback as of early Tuesday afternoon.
Others were harsher.
"A guy like Joe Flacco, who works with the Special Olympics, who donates his time and I would assume his money to the Special Olympics, should know better," said John Boit, a Silver Spring resident who said he has proudly sported a Flacco jersey, until now. "What it does is, in my opinion, it amounts to hate speech."
Boit, who has a sister with Down syndrome, said he expected the word to be "stricken from [Flacco's] vocabulary." Special Olympics officials added that they would use the incident to raise awareness about the offensiveness of the words "retard" and "retarded."
"We're taking this as an opportunity to further educate people on the usage of the word," Ellingsworth said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.