'We'll make it happen'
Hispanic activists, team officials say Issel must apologizePosted: Friday December 14, 2001 7:14 PM
DENVER (AP) -- Hispanic activists dropped a boycott of the Denver Nuggets, and team officials said Friday they will make coach Dan Issel apologize publicly to Latinos for an insulting ethnic remark.
The announcement was made after a group of about 25 Hispanic activists met with top officials of Kroenke Sports Enterprises, which owns the Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche.
Several Hispanic leaders said Issel made a heartfelt apology to the group at the start of the meeting and that it was widely accepted.
"When someone says, 'Will you forgive me?' I say yes," said state Sen. Rob Hernandez. "I admire him for that."
Hernandez had been among those calling for Issel to resign.
"Forty-eight hours can change the world," Hernandez said.
Nevertheless, Hernandez and other activists said Issel should still make a more public apology, perhaps on television, to Latinos nationwide.
"We'll make it happen," said Don Elliman, president of Kroenke Sports.
As Issel walked off the court after a 99-96 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday night, he became involved in a shouting match with a fan. Issel yelled: "Go drink another beer, you Mexican ...," adding an expletive at the end of the sentence.
Issel apologized the next day to the team, the community and the fan. He was suspended without pay for four games, costing him more than $112,000.
He left Friday's 90-minute meeting after about 10 minutes under orders from the team's owners, who said they didn't believe it was appropriate for the coach to stay while his conduct was being discussed.
Bobby Bowman of Thornton, Colo., has said he was the target of Issel's comments. Described in local media as Hispanic, Bowman said the coach should not be fired for his remark but should resign because of the team's poor record.
Several activists said a boycott was not discussed Friday, but the meeting was only the beginning of a dialogue between the team and the city's large Hispanic population.
"We'll have one week to see if there is genuine remorse," said Pierre Jimenez, a Hispanic businessman and leader. The Hispanic leaders want the team to talk with them about a committee to advise them on relations with the Latino community, which makes up 35 percent of the city's population.
Elliman said no further discipline was planned against Issel.
"By NBA standards, Dan was disciplined quite harshly," Elliman said. He said he was certain Issel would agree to make a public apology.