5. Michael Richards
Most fans knew Michael Richards as a comedic actor, especially as Kramer on Seinfeld, but they didn’t know he did stand-up. After November 12, 2006 everyone knew Richards fancied himself a stand-up comic. Richards was performing at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood, California, and, when a member of the crowd heckled him, Richards told him to shut up, then used the N-word six times while screaming at the man. A cell phone camera caught the whole incident, and Richards went on an apology tour like no other before him. Even Jerry Seinfeld appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman to do damage control.
4. Howard Cosell
Cosell was one of the greatest sportscaster ever. He did boxing (Down goes Frazier!), Monday Night Football, the 1972 Olympics in Munich, baseball (The Bronx is burning), and told the world that John Lennon was killed during a Dolphins-Patriots game. He had one of the most recognizable voices in our culture.
But in September of 1983, after Washington Redskins receiver Alvin Garrett caught a pass and ran down the field, Cosell exclaimed, "Look at that little monkey go.” He drew heavy criticism for this, even though he had used the term ”monkey” for other quick and small non-black players, like, um, that one guy.
3. Jimmy ”the Greek” Snyder
CBS fired Snyder in 1988 after he spoke to a television reporter at a Washington D.C. restaurant. ”The black is a better athlete to begin with,” Snyder said. “Because he's been bred to be that way. Because of his high thighs and big thighs that goes up into his back, and they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs. This goes back all the way to the Civil War when during the slave trading, the owner, the slave owner, would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid.”
Snyder passed way in 1996, unable to witness Michael Irvin stealing his bit years later, in 2006, when he said that Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s athletic ability can be attributed to his African-American heritage, and that his maternal relatives were doing it with ”slave brothers.” Of course, Irvin apologized, but Al Sharpton had already forgiven him, the silly goose, and responded by placing his finger over Irvin’s lips, saying, ”Sssshhh,” and giving Irvin a great, big hug.
2. Don Imus
Like radio comedians from Opie and Anthony to Howard Stern, Imus has long made off-color jokes about sex, race, and what have you. But as he veered more toward politics, more people were listening, there to pounce when he said something wrong. On April 4, 2007, Imus said about the Rutgers Girls basketball team, ”That's some nappy-headed hos there.” And you would have thought he was a Duke Lacrosse player accused a raping a woman because activists around the country wanted him fired, if not hanged. Imus was fired by both MSNBC and CBS Radio while in the middle of raising money for children with cancer, but he was hired by ABC Radio Networks just a few months later.
1. David Howard
In what is undoubtedly the silliest example of how touchy we are about race, David Howard, the then-Washington D.C. mayor’s aide, made the mistake of using the word ”niggardly” absolutely correctly in 1999. He used the term, meaning ”miserly,” while describing fiscal matters with some black colleagues. Well, they wanted his head after that, and Howard resigned, only to be offered his job back when everyone looked the word up in a dictionary.