49er "tones down" antigay comments

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com November 23 2002 1:00 AM ET

Garrison Hearst apologized Thursday for remarks he'd previously made about gays in pro football. In an interview with the Fresno Bee three weeks ago, the San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowl running back used derogatory language when declaring that he wouldn't want a gay athlete as a teammate.

Gay athletes became a topic of national discussion last month when former NFL player Esera Tuaolo acknowledged that he is gay.

While Hearst toned down his opinions in making his apology Thursday, he didn't retract any of his statements. "I realized it was a little insensitive, some of the stuff I said," Hearst said. When asked if he regretted his comments, Hearst was noncommittal: "I don't know. If I hurt somebody's feelings, I hate that I did it."

The 49ers' top brass, mindful of their home city's large, vocal gay population, distanced themselves from Hearst's remarks. "I don't think it's reflective of the attitude of the organization," said general manager Terry Donahue. "We're way too busy trying to block and tackle to be involved in a social issue. It's unfortunate that those comments were made, and insensitive, but we'll go on."