Video: ESPN Mike Greenberg Says Martin Luther “Coon” instead of “King” On Air | BlackSportsOnline

Video: ESPN Mike Greenberg Says Martin Luther “Coon” instead of “King” On Air

by Robert Littal | Posted on Monday, January 18th, 2010
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Mike Greenberg needs to address this immediately and not just with an apology, but an explanation of how it happened.

Words like “Coon” are not the type that usually just “slip out”.

Nothing in Greenberg’s history shows that he intentionally meant to do it, but an explanation and apology is needed and it is needed immediately. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. He appears to be a very nice guy and there has never been any hint of controversy surrounding him to my knowledge.

So an apology would be enough for me.

Someone made the point it is quite possible that Greenberg was using the word off air and that is what caused the slip on air.

That is speculation, but there are plenty of people on the Mike and Mike in the Morning set, so I would hope if that was the case one of them would bring to management in what regards Greenberg was using the word.

Once again that is just speculation and hopefully Greenberg himself will address the issue soon because even if a honest mistake he needs to acknowledge it and not act like it didn’t happen.


Mike Greenberg has issued a statement and I consider the issue closed, here is what he said:

I just came home from the Knicks game and found out about the mess that was created by my garbling a sentence on our show this morning; I apologize for not addressing it sooner.

And I’m sorry that my talking too fast – and slurring my words – might have given people who don’t know our show the wrong impression about us, and about me.

I feel horrible about that, because nothing could be further away from who I am and what our show is about.

I would never say anything like that, not in public, or in private, or in the silence of my own mind, and neither would anyone associated with our show, and I’m very sorry that my stumble this morning gave so many people the opposite impression.


This will be the last time I address this.

Do I believe Mike Greenberg apology?

Doesn’t matter because unless someone is willing to step up and give a reason why I shouldn’t believe him I am not going to make accusations. I have a set of principles that will not change. One of those principles is before I throw around very accusatory words that I have a strong set of facts to back them up. In this case I have none.

Do I have my suscpions?

Absolutely, but it would be hypocritical to label someone when this site was built on the foundation of being unbiased. At that point I become the type of journalist who I have promised my audience I would never become.

I do believe the apology should have been on air and punishment should have been consistent with other ESPN employees who have had similar slip ups in the past.

At this point I have nothing else to say except my words are my words. They don’t need to be interpreted I always mean exactly what I write and say. Point blank period.

About the Author

Founder & Editor in Chief of BlackSportsOnline & BSO Entertainment The Ohio State University Alum & Dollarnaire for Life

Displaying 143 Comments
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  1. @DCurtis55 says:

    say what? Was it a joke or a slip of the tongue or just blatant?

  2. I hear "martin luther coon king jr. holiday" like he try to quickly fix what he said. I like mike greenberg.Hope were wrong

  3. @BobbyBroad says:

    wow, I have to check out coon comment

  4. Raphael says:

    I believe it was definitely either something he was thinking or talking about prior to resuming the broadcast. We all have said something that we wish we could take back. I agree that an explanation and an apology is needed. To just ignore it and act like it didn't happen just makes the situation worse.

    • Definitely I am not saying he needs to confess his sins, just a "my bad" we were talking about XYZ before

    • Black Man says:

      I agree that it was a slip of the tounge. He did not mean to say it, but it is in him. If he flushes his vocabulary and lifestyle from toying with racist comments such as these, they would not slip out. I believe he owes an apology and explanation.

  5. Cameron says:

    It sounds to me like he was on auto-pilot and combined "King" and "Junior" – sounds bad, and he should probably address it, but definitely not intentional.

    • Napo says:

      I thought the same thing, Cameron

    • Sherri says:

      No, that has been a comment made for years. I was one of only 12 Black students in my school and we were told to have a Happy Martin Luther Coon Day ever year at this time. This brought back uglly memories.

      • hmmm says:

        Mike is not responsible for it "bringing back ugly memories" for you. The way a lot of blacks treat other minorities should also "bring back ugly memories" yet you black folks never seem to connect the dots. Don't you think the way blacks have acted towards jews brings back "ugly memories" for them… or do their feelings not matter as much as yours?

  6. Eric C says:

    Wow, whatever the actual store, I agree; he definitely needs to address it. Mistakes happen, and one like this can't just be swept under the rug.

    • Patrick C. Magee says:

      No Eric C. Mistakes like this should be swept under the rug. That's where uninentional verbal farts belong. They don't belong in a media circus where one side claims that the racism of a half century is as prevelant as ever and the other side claims back that minorities are whiners and insincere abour discrimiation.

      No. This is a non issue. Mike G has nothing to apologize for. Let's save accusations of racism for actual racism. It's more meaningful that way

  7. ron says:

    nah to me it was more like he or somebody he knows and talks with alot say that as a joke so much it slipped out his mouth at the wrong time. No accident.

    • That is why I am interested in the explantion. A lot of people have mentioned that to me your theory. That is why I included it in the article.

      • hmmm says:

        It's a conspiracy thory. Unless you have facts to bring that up why are you insinuating it? Perhaps YOU Robert make off color jokes. Maybe your sexist, homophobis, racist or anti-semetic. Strange caust when black folks like Jackson or Rev Wright make biggoted comments I never hear black folks speculate that they probably say and do things far worse behind closed doors… although they do

    • Jason says:

      Mike Greenberg has been on the air at ESPN for around 10 years, this is the first time that he has made any slip of the tongue that could be interpreted as racial or prejudice whatsoever. The guy talks on live radio for 4 hours a day, and live tv for a few hours a week as well. Give the guy a little credit. If he were a prejudice man in any way, we would have already seen it, his guests would know it and not continue to come on, and he would no longer be employed at ESPN.

  8. Mike Greenberg says:

    Get a life.

  9. anonymous says:

    coon sounds a lot like "King" and "Junior" mungled up

  10. Rogersworthe says:

    Meh. Who cares? Obviously a mistake.

  11. Andrew says:

    Anyone offended by this is an idiot. He obviously started saying "King," then started saying "Junior," then backed up when he misspoke. In fact, the simple fact that this article is angry rather than amused at that incidental slip-up is much funnier than the video itself.

    • No one is Angry Andrew, he just needs to speak on it

      • jane doe says:

        gee, and I would like to see black folks who have made anti-asian, anti-semetic, homophibic and sexist coments to be taken to task. yet they are swept under the rug. when blacks are forced to answer and be accoutable for every wrong doing I will then take your demand seriously.

    • WMJ says:

      The problem is that there is a significant history of various racist organizations calling King just that before his murder. Absent this context, one could argue that this was a simple slip of the tongue. However, it's naive to think that Greenberg was the first person to have linked these words together.

  12. Eric says:

    I think it's pretty obvious he got tongue tied trying to say "King Junior". Not a mistake you want to make on MLK day, but definitely a mistake.

  13. A.C says:

    I think he slipped his words up.

  14. Terry says:

    send your complaints to tmz and espn if we want someing done

  15. Craig says:

    As a white person, I can say that my racist white friends call the holiday “Martin Luther Coon Day” all the time. Can guarantee Mike Greenburg says it too… and it rolled off the tongue.

  16. disagree. the long 'u' in 'Luther' is a verbal slip when trying to get the words out of your mouth. it's no different than a classic tongue twister.

    if you've been talking all day, then try to say:

    'How can a clam cram in a clean cream can'

    fast, you'll see how even 'L' and 'r' start to run together.


  17. Brendan says:

    As others have said, it’s clearly a slip between “King” and “Junior”. And this blog’s response to immediately overreact to something that could possibly, maybe, barely be seen as racist shows us that Dr. King’s dream is far from being realized. Pretty shameful, and I’m not talking about Mike.

    • Honestly I am not buying the "King" "Junior" theory, but Greenberg could clear it all up.

    • BabyA says:

      You should be talking about Mike..because I know for a fact that white people say these things and mean them , but once it comes out, you want people to say that it was a mistake, or Black people are being too sensitive. Until you have experienced racisim in the fullest like I have, it will always be that to you..just a mistake.

      • jane doe says:

        sorry babyA but most bigotry and intollerence I've seen in my lifetime has been from blacks. I live in a predominately gay neighborhood and 3x I've heard gays be called "faggot" and threatened- all by black males. Anti-asian, anti-semetic and mysogynistic hate speech seems to roll of the black man's tongue pretty easily. We all have feelings and I sure as hell don't see black folks being overly sensitive to other opressed groups

    • Roy says:

      the author clearly brought light to the subject if it was missed and got a catchy headline to draw readers. I think he even mentioned that numerous times later that he still thinks Mike is a good person and will not jump down his throat. please read the whole article instead of copying what you would write for a Jason Whitlock article onto an honest openness about the incident.

  18. MikeT says:

    @ Craig: I am a white male and honestly I have never heard Martin Luther Coon Day before and there is no way you can guarantee that Greenie has ever said it.

    @ The Author: If he is such a racist why would he even bring up Martin Luther King Jr. Day at all? I mean honestly 99% of the shows I have watched today haven't even mentioned it. A large portion of Americans don't even consider it a holiday. I think he made a nice gesture by even saying what day today was. I am definitely not a racist but I had forgotten until he reminded me, eve.

    • charles says:

      a large portion of Americans do consider it a holiday mike

    • JacquelineM says:

      The fact that "a large portion of Americans don't even consider it a holiday" shows there is work to be done. The fact is it is a National Holiday whether you like it or not. Come on people…you have to see how this is a problem. I do not make a big deal over ever little thing but the fact that so many of you don't see this as a problem hurts and actually scares me. We have not arrived yet. In all actuallity, the comments many of you are making, bother me more that the original "mistake". And as for the "mistake"…please! What is in our thoughts and mind often comes out of the mouth.

  19. As the host of a sports talk show I don't see how he could ever say anything which blacks could construe as racist as that's about all there is in sports today.

  20. Avion says:

    Some of ya'll kill me i swear. I would image a good number of us know that the posthumous Dr. Martin Luther King, has been called "Martin Luther COON" during the civil rights movement as an intended racial slur. Do any of us know if Mr. Greenberg "intended" to say it on purpose or not? No. None of us know if that's true or false. So . . why in the world are some of you saying that it was OBVIOUSLY a slip up. Or, by some coincidence he meshed the words King and Junior together. Sounds like you're making excuses for someone and something you know nothing of. To say he meant it or not would be ignorantly oblivious. And that's not an opinion. Don't let passion sway opinion.

    • ken says:

      you hit it on the head

    • Dee says:

      None of us knows what kind of person Mike really happens to be. However, slip up of that nature usually is a greater indication of one' thought process and value systems. If given an opportunity to speak as often as he does, eventually those kinds of thoughts will accidently slip out. You can hold things back for so long before somewhere, somehow it comes to light. He should not be punished because from this point on every minority will look at him with reservations as they engage in any kind of dialouge with him. No one uses the word coon in any fashion unless it stated in a derogatory manner. The word racoon will be most appropiate in most cases when speaking of the animal. However the word coon was and still is used as a racist remark.

    • Realist says:

      I think you all need to open your eyes! Google Martin Luther Coon and you will see that the phrase has been used for decades to demean the memory of the Dr. King. That bull about combining the two words is rediculous. Now of course he didn't mean to say it, but it is likely that he had heard it so much that day and possibly even said it, or maybe argued with someone who said it. Nonetheless he didn't jumble his words, he just made a mistake and actually said it.

  21. Jack Johnson says:

    You guys must be bored as hell from not working today to get all riled up about this. Just chalk it up to a mistake that doesn't need an apology. Nothing in Greenberg's history tells us that he's a racist in any shape or form.

    • dee says:

      None of us knows what kind of person Mike really happens to be. However, slip up of that nature usually is a greater indication of one' thought process and value systems. If given an opportunity to speak as often as he does, eventually those kinds of thoughts will accidently slip out. You can hold things back for so long before somewhere, somehow it comes to light. He should not be punished because from this point on every minority will look at him with reservations as they engage in any kind of dialouge with him. No one uses the word coon in any fashion unless it stated in a derogatory manner. The word racoon will be most appropiate in most cases when speaking of the animal. However the word coon was and still is used as a racist remark.

  22. Jay Johnson says:

    Really? It was a slip of the tongue. Sheesh, why the fuck does every GD thing stir some racial debate, and usually its 'activists' that purposefully focus on the ethnic component to spark debate, or in this site's case, page views.

  23. the who says:

    racist i hate espn i knew thsi day would happen . hahahhaahh COON

  24. First off the only people making it into a racial component are those saying it in the comments. I said several times in the article:

    A- It just seemed like a mistake
    B- Greeny has no history of being that type of guy

    But he should clear it up. If that was jemele Hill having a slip up and apology would have already been given

    • Mike Ragin says:

      Yo! Rob,
      The guy made a racial slip not saying he's a racist or bigot. What offends me is that he didn't face up to it.He probable heard it somewhere and he could have even been offended by what he heard. But it was in his head and he should of said wow I don't no where that came from but I'm sorry. I tested myself by saying Martin Luther King Jr.,repeatedly fast and "Coon" just doesn't come out.He corrected hiself before he finished so he knows he said something wrong.

      Mike Ragin

    • NIKKI says:


  25. Andrew Canz says:

    maybe he was just looking out his window b4 and saw a raccoon and it was on his mind

  26. thomas says:

    i agree with the writer.. i am a radio talk show host too and make sure you listen as we discuss this an other topics at

  27. jazzman says:

    sorry, listened as carefully as possible three times, and heard nothing that could possibly heard as what he's been quoted as saying. His meaning, though, was clear, as intending to simply recognize the holiday, but did it mush-mouthed.

    • daniel coon says:

      yeah whatever, he said coon, i heard on first try, yall act like this acceptible…wait a minute it is, so sad…

  28. Jesse says:

    Why jew wanna make a big deal out of a slip of the lip.

  29. shoreke says:

    This was an obvious mistake or an attempt to see if could get away with it. Either way…he is so fired.

  30. Romy says:

    The thing is that there are thousands upon thousands of other words to mess up with. Look in the dictionary and see how many words begin with K and C. The fact that this particular word can out so easily says a lot about what he may believe or talk about. I've never in my life mixed King with Coon. Again, there are thousands of words to choose.

    • Kevin says:

      He didn't mix just King with Coon; he mixed King Junior and it came out as coon. Take the first sound of King and the long "un" of junior. It is pretty apparent he was talking too fast and garbled his words. Non-issue.

  31. dick says:


  32. shoreke says:

    Confucius say: Racial jokes you make off the air sometimes slip out on the air.

  33. billy bouy says:

    Wasnt it he and his partner that put together that horrendous and filthy roasting of charlie weiss a couple years ago and where their female co employee did the infamous F Jesus salute? wouldnt put it past anyone at that place, given recent uncovering of sexual abuse in the workplace that Coon talk off mic could be more common than we'd want it to. ESPN is a cesspool of abuse–both of their employees and apparently others. Probably part of the behind the scenes dialogue going on there, all in a joking kind of way—but it hurts no matter the form it comes out in. Clean it up at ESPN—-all of it. Radio, TV, and Bristol.

  34. jimmy wilson says:

    Since ESPN is the first to cruxify everyone else then dumby up when they do these things…Good Luck…I am still waiting for them to explain Kevin Phillips

  35. Lanny says:

    There is no reason to explain or apologize for something like this.

  36. Bill says:

    Come on folks it was a simple mistake because he was talking so fast and mixed King & Junior. Fuckin blacks always want to cry foul over something that is a non issue.

  37. James says:

    All blacks wanna do is play the racism card….. well to be honest, this website is racist. If there was a or a white history month, then all hell would break loose.

    • That is and I never played the racism card, where is your proof of that. He made an insensitive remark even if mistake he should have addressed it immediately

      • Sam says:

        What is How is the slip of the tounge insensitive? Maybe people are a little (or a lot) too sensitive.

        James – I agree. Wasn't it MLK who wanted everyone judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin? Having websites like this and black history month and anything else that is set up for people of just certain skin color is inherently racist and in my opinion does nothing but further racial divide.

  38. Arizona Kev says:

    Educate yourselfs people. Have you ever heard of a Freudian slip. Defined (3 different sources) as one of the following…

    1. A verbal mistake that is thought to reveal a repressed belief, thought, or emotion.

    2. An error in speech, memory, or physical action that is interpreted as occurring due to the interference of some unconscious ('dynamically repressed') wish, conflict, or train of thought. The concept is thus part of classical psychoanalysis.

    3. An inadvertent mistake in speech or writing that is thought to reveal a person's unconscious motives, wishes, or attitudes.

    Plenty of people use langauge in private that they do not use in public. Is Greeny a racist I don't think so but I do not know him personally and neither do any of you commenting. He owes an apology on the air the same way he made the mistake. Those that don't understand why, need to do a little soul searching and ask yourselves why you believe he shouldn't…you may find a skeleton in your closet.

    • hmmm says:

      "He owes an apology on the air the same way he made the mistake."

      But Jerimiah Wright made anti-semetic comments on the air and Jesse Jackson called Obama a ni**er on the air. So why haven't YOU called for them to apologize on the air also?

      • Sam says:


        .First you say it was a Freudian slip obviously insinuating that calling a black person a "coon" is something he would do. Then you go on to say you don't think he is a racist. I think you are confused. It is one or the other, not both. Have you ever heard of "slip of the tongue"? How do you know he didnt just mush King and Junior together? You don't. None of us know what is in his heart. The fact that you think he "owes" anybody an apology shows that you are just ready to pull out the race card without knowing his heart. Maybe you should do a little soul searching yourself.

  39. kim says:

    I heard Mike Greenbergs comment this morning as I watched Mike & Mike this morning. He definetly said coon & then corrected himself & said King. We were shocked & we ran it back on the TIVO to make sure we heard what he said.

  40. goturcoon right here says:

    Slip or the tongue, whatever, we have to start hold these crackers responsible; coon? on the man's day. he should be suspended. Jimmy the greek rolling in his grave

  41. Elwyn says:

    It was too smooth to be an accident. But I do believe that we as humans are too sensitive to words, while portraying a false tough guy exterior. We are so weak. I wonder how many whites really thought that it was funny, but were too scared and WEAK to admit it. They would rather take a politically correct approach in public, and laugh around their friends. Let's face it though Mike has the right to SPEAK FREELY, I just think when the real MIC and camera is on look and speak directly into them, Then I can respect you, other than that you are just a WEAK person with sarcasm, trying to gain locker room love. I know reserve my right to observe Yom Cracker……Kippur

  42. jim says:

    give me a break, make a big deal about something that is a big deal.. no one says boo about rappers using the n-word, they still sell their music. it was a slip, read into it whatever you want. the people that make an issue of it are the true racists. jesse jackson, hymie town?

  43. youngbrothas says:

    Will he get fired for this? Nah…

    Was it as bad as a mistake he probably has ever made in this age of social media? Yeah…

  44. As I stated all I wanted was for him to address. if he would have addressed it immediately it wouldn't have went viral

    • jane doe says:

      of course it would have.

    • David Shumaker says:

      It is obvious that Mike Greenberg conflated the “KI” sound in “King” and “OON” sound in “Junior” by speaking too fast; every last one of us has done that in our lives (ever try saying “Shoe City” quickly?). I will, at risk of being called a ‘racist’, remind you of the old fable “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”; find “racism” in every utterance, and one day you will find the genuine article and get nothing for your discovery but a big yawn. One more thing: double standards destroy moral authority; when the “N Word” stops shooting out of Stephen A. Smith’s mouth on ESPN, his ilk will have a better foothold on the moral high ground.

  45. Reynold says:

    Does anyone outside of the KKK use "coon" as a racial slur anymore? If there was some kind of intent, wouldn't it be more Rush like using quasi PC lingo that is actually insulting, rather than an archaic slur that was used more in the 40's and 50s?

  46. @djkylelarue says:

    I agree with an earlier post…why even (attempt to) mention MLK? You need a black/white conspiracy? Dig up the YouTube of Rush Limbaugh doing Sunday NFL Countdown. Greenie is a rapid-fire radio guy who simply tripped over his own tongue. I'm in radio and have fumbled a word or two, and if I didn't play the aircheck tape back, I wouldn't have even noticed what I said. Guess what? It happens. I bet he was thinking ahead of himself and talking so fast, HE probably didn't hear himself make that mistake. But a MISTAKE it was, one for which he apologized. End of story.

  47. Anon says:

    Wow, a whole lot of amateur psychologists must hang out on this site judging by the comments on this article.

    Sometimes a slip is Freudian… sometimes its just a slip.

  48. Michael says:

    What we should be discussing here is why there is a Black Sports Online??? You can't have it both ways!!!!
    That is what the true problem is. Race issues are not and never will be a 'one way' street.

    • Sam says:

      Amen…….Black Sports Online, Black History Month, Black Colleges, BET TV and on and on………..but everyone should be judged on the content of their character right? Sounds like a lot of people like to be defined by their skin pigmentation rather that anything that actually matters.

  49. edd says:

    Greenberg is a bigot.

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