49ers hit Hearst incident head-on

The 49ers moved quickly Friday to address, smooth over and bring closure to the issue of tailback Garrison Hearst's derogatory comments regarding homosexuals. The team trotted out both Hearst and coach Steve Mariucci for an impromptu afternoon news conference at team headquarters, and team owners John York and Denise DeBartolo York issued a statement saying "we take this incident very seriously."

When the issue came to light Thursday, Hearst did not back down from comments he had made late last month to the Fresno Bee newspaper, in which he was quoted as saying, "I don't want any faggots on my team. I know this might not be what people want to hear, but that's a punk. I don't want any faggots in this locker room." He apologized Thursday for hurting anybody's feelings, but also said, "the comment was made."

On Friday, Hearst gave a more formal apology.

"First of all, I want to apologize for the comments that I made, and to the gay community," Hearst said. "I didn't realize it would be so harmful. I want to direct it to my teammates for causing a disturbance among the team before this game. Being an African-American, I know that discrimination is wrong and I was wrong for saying what I said about anybody - any race, any religion. I hope that everyone can accept my apology."

Niners coach Steve Mariucci, who didn't comment on the issue Thursday because of his unfamiliarity with the situation, had plenty to say Friday.

"This was a mistake, and Garrison is the first one to admit it, and I'll be the second one to admit," Mariucci said. "It was wrong and we simply won't have, can't have it in this organization. As coach of the 49ers, I apologize for not addressing this sooner. It's unfortunate that this happened and I hope you do accept my, and Garrison's, apology, so we can move on."

Mariucci also said, "As a coach, as a teacher, as a father, I have a strong belief in tolerance, in equality, in civil rights, equal opportunity, and I hope that's reflected in the way I live my life. There's no place in this organization, on this team, or in this whole society for that matter, there's no place for discrimination of any sort. The people who know me and know our organization know that's what we stand for. I give Garrison credit for coming here, saying what he said and apologizing - I'm sure it wasn't easy. Believe me, his words are heartfelt and sincere."

In his statement, York said, "I have spoken to Garrison about his comments and to educate him on the hurtful effect they have had on so many people. The 49ers and I are supportive of Garrison as a person and have talked with him today about discrimination, including the terrible history of discrimination against African Americans, as well as sensitivity and tolerance. I believe that Garrison has a much better understanding about tolerance today than when he made his comments. ...

"These comments were inappropriate and hurtful to the Gay and Lesbian community, our fans, the city of San Francisco, and the NFL. We expect better from our employees and we regret the negative impact these comments have caused. We will continue to educate our team and employees regarding tolerance and awareness."

Mariucci said Hearst wouldn't be fined and there would be no disciplinary action taken against the team's leading rusher.

"As far as a fine, we're not going to do that, because I think it's not about some money out of a paycheck - that doesn't teach us anything," Mariucci said. "I think there was a lot learned here about discrimination and how our society ought to live with each other. We live in a very culturally-diverse America - that's what makes America great and that's what we're most proud of. I think the lesson is much more important than any sort of fine. Garrison certainly learned something, I think our team is certainly going to learn something, and I did, too."




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