Star Tribune apologizes for Jim Souhan column about Coach Kill's epileptic seizures

Categories: Sports
Star Tribune Editor in Chief Nancy Barnes took the rare step of publicly apologizing for a column suggesting Gophers Coach Jerry Kill's epilepsy makes him a liability.

The Sunday story by Jim Souhan questioned Kill's fitness for the field in light of several seizures he has suffered during football games, including Saturday's. Arguing that "Kill is not healthy enough to lead," Souhan wrote:

The face of your program can't belong to someone who may be rushed to the hospital at any moment of any game, or practice, or news conference. No one who buys a ticket to TCF Bank Stadium should be rewarded with the sight of a middle-aged man writhing on the ground. This is not how you compete for sought-after players and entertainment dollars.

Kill's case is sad. He did good work his entire life to reach a position that his system can no longer handle.

The backlash was vociferous, and the emails numbered in the thousands, according to a FAQ Souhan prepared to try to defuse the brewing controversy.

When that didn't work, the Strib brought out the big guns with a statement from Barnes herself:

Many of you have written over the weekend to express your anger or concern regarding Jim Souhan's columns and blog posts following Coach Kill's seizure during Saturday's football game. On behalf of the Star Tribune, I apologize. In no way did we intend to suggest that people with epilepsy, or other disabilities, should be hidden away. Nor did we intend to be callous or insensitive to their struggles.

And Souhan himself has offered a somewhat more measured apology, reiterating his original point while walking back the tone:


What I have gathered from readers is that they believe I poked fun at Jerry, or demeaned his condition.

I certainly wouldn't do that intentionally and I regret that my tone in the column struck some readers that way.

I like Jerry and think highly of him as a coach. I would love to see him remain healthy. I admire his gumption.

I'm accustomed to receiving criticism for nearly everything I write. As a sports columnist, every opinion draws a backlash. What is happening now is different because I'm receiving criticism from people who believe that I insulted Kill or people who share his condition.

That certainly was not my intent.

So far no word from Coach Kill on whether the apology is accepted.

H/T: Romenesko

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