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

Categories: Sports
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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:

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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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16 comments
mrgasso
mrgasso

God Souhan is a Douche! Only My opinion!

historyaccessdotcom
historyaccessdotcom

A columnist writes a piece stating a strong opinion. This is what columnists do - the best of them, anyway. The opinion is controversial. To which one might say, all the better! Let's stir things up a little bit! Let's blast through the Minnesota niceness thing and get down to something real! The newspaper employing said columnist not only fails to back him up but smears him all over the pavement like a truck hitting a pedestrian in the middle of the night. I hate to call the Strib stupid and gutless - this is a Minnesota institution I truly love - but that's what I'm doing here. This decision by the paper, leaving one of its columnists as roadkill, will reverberate through the news room for years. It is nothing less than an attack on the First Amendment, which has a lot to do with reporters believing, deep down, that what they see and hear will actually be reported, and columnists believing, deep down, that what they think and feel will get published and backed up. The other topic here - quite separate from whether the Star Tribune has the guts to back up its columnists - has to do with Jerry Kill. I have been thinking for weeks that Kill should not inflict his illness on the public by courting seizures on the sideline of a football game, where he is by definition under heavy stress and when it's known that heavy stress can contribute to seizures. Especially given the fact that, in football, brain injuries - and the underlying fear of brain injuries - are a constant threat. Especially given the fact that it's the man's untrammeled ambition that is driving him to stand down there. Untrammeled ambition equals selfishness and an excessive ego, in my book. I was waiting patiently for some columnist to have the guts to delve into this topic and express not only his view but the view of a lot of people. I'm glad Jim Souhan did. I'm sorry the Strib saw fit to slam him down for it. I want to add one more thing, if I may. I am a proud liberal Democrat. I like to think of myself as supportive of outsiders, those who suffer, those who are excluded from power, those are ill. I hate the gilded inner complacency of rich people and lucky people who do nothing with their wealth and luck but hoard it. I have quite deep sympathy and, indeed, empathy for those who are sick - I myself have been in the throes of a devastating illness that lasted the better part of a year - I know a fair bit about the loneliness, fear, and doubt that it engenders, and a fair bit about the value of support. But there are limits to support. There are, believe it or not, limits to political correctness.

jonmc7583
jonmc7583

The fact that this has stirred any emotion is baffling. 


Kill should NOT be fired because he has a disease. Kill should be evaluated on his performance in his job, just like anyone else.


If he cannot effectively do his job, completing a game, winning games, recruiting... he should be replaced. Disease or not, if you don't do your job, your employer has the right to find a better fit.

Scott Silvi
Scott Silvi

The question is - are you going to stop reading the strib, or at least his articles? If the vast majority say no, then why would they fire him? I've never seen an article on their website with more comments than this got. Negative comments are still comments. Comments = views = revenue.

Mary Karius
Mary Karius

wow, that was some apology Souhan...I regret that you got mad. Ahole.

MicheleBachmann
MicheleBachmann topcommenter

They should fire Jim Souhan for being a no talent dick not for giving his opinion.  

David Gustafson
David Gustafson

Personally, I don't the public should be subjected to the sight of a middle-aged sportswriter spewing his intolerance in such a public fashion. Perhaps Mr Souhan should be removed from public view. In the old days, an editor worth their salt would put Mr Souhan on the obituary files until he'd learned to behave like an adult in public. I doubt the current management of the Strib is capable of doing anything other than the paint-by-numbers of managing a PR crisis.

ajlalk3
ajlalk3 topcommenter

@David Gustafson How is his opinion "intolerance"? Jerry Kill's job is to coach football. If he has a medical condition that prevents him from doing so on a regular basis, then he should not be coaching football. Sorry, but just because you have an illness doesn't mean you should be allowed to have any job you want, and that everyone should be able to cater to your whims at any moment.

kkrienes
kkrienes

You obviously didn't read the article because he was using Souhan's verbage! Epilepsy doesn't make him "not normal" anymore than diabetes or high blood pressure would make a person "not normal"! I commend the college for hiring him and allowing him to do what he does best reguardless of his epilepsy. Are you suggesting we lock away all the epileptics of the world so no one has to witness a seizure? Did you know our supreme court justice Roberts has epilepsy and there are other star athletes who also have epilepsy? A seizure does not make a person incapable and the college apparently agrees as they have allowed him to continue to coach and put a plan in place in the event of a seizure. Epilepsy is not a disease and unlike your ignorance, it is not contagious.

tresch34
tresch34

@ajlalk3 

Actually, you can't just fire someone because they have epilepsy.  The U knew he had this condition when they hired him.  And, honestly, he's missed, what, the equivalent of 10 game hours the past 3 years?  How much time have you taken off from your job in the last 3 years?

itzmeman
itzmeman

@ajlalk3 @tresch34  - Many college and professional coaches/managers get kicked out of games for losing their tempers.  They do not make it through the entire game.  Most generate more than the Gopher's football program.   It is a job and he does have a medical condition that can be problematic at times, but it does not mean he can't perform his duties.  I bet you would fire a woman who may be expecting, wouldn't you?

fufucatwo1
fufucatwo1

@ajlalk3 @tresch34 Actually, if Mr. Kill is found to be able to perform the essential functions of his job (with or without a reasonable accommodation), then it doesn't matter what you, I or Mr. Souhan think.  Bottom line:  is he doing the job he is being paid to do?  The answer appears to be yes, case closed.

ajlalk3
ajlalk3 topcommenter

@tresch34 @ajlalk3 How much earned vacation time I have taken is irrelevant. Jerry Kill is not a normal man with a normal job. He is the highly visible head football coach of a Big Ten team that generates millions of a dollars a year with its football program. It it his job to be there on game day, and to make it through the ENTIRE game. 

It's kinda silly how people think they compare their boring 9 to 5 office job, which can be replaced at any time by some other low skill desk slave, with that of a Division 1 college football coach.

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