IOWA CITY, Iowa — For over 20 years, the “Voice of the Iowa Hawkeyes,” has been one man. “He’s been impeccable for the past 20 years,” said University of Iowa student Sean Schumacher.
Now, Gary Dolphin’s grip of the mic, at least for Iowa men’s basketball, has been ripped away the rest of this season by Hawkeye Sports Properties for a post-game broadcast comment made on Tuesday.
In the broadcast Dolphin references a University of Maryland player named Bruno Fernando and says, “Fernando was King Kong at the end of the game.” Maryland defeated Iowa in that game. Bruno Fernando is a black athlete at the University of Maryland and a native of Africa. Referring to him as King Kong has been deemed racist by Dolphin’s employers and the University of Iowa Athletics Department which supports the decision.
Iowa student Collin Durbin sees it both ways and said, “I can understand why he’s referencing him like that because he had such a good ending to the game, but I see why there’s a controversy, especially with the player being African-American and that racist stereotype almost.”
Dolphin released a statement saying: “In no way did I intend to offend or disparage the player. I take full responsibility for my inappropriate word choice and offer a sincere apology to him and anyone else who was offended.”
Dolphin was suspended two games earlier in the season for criticizing an Iowa athlete’s play on the court while Dolphin thought it was a commercial break.
Some students at Iowa feel the most recent context meant Fernando was unstoppable in a game where the sophomore recorded 11 points and 11 rebounds. “I think I’d take it more as a complement to his athletic ability. I don’t think he was going at his race or anything like that,” said Schumacher.
Others say the long history of people of color being likened to monkeys or apes in a demeaning way should have made it an obvious choice to use different words. Muthu Krishan, a resident of nearby Coralville said, “If it is known to cause tension, I think being on a public media interface you have to watch what you are saying.”
The University of Iowa Athletics Department would not allow Channel 13 to interview either Head Coach Fran McCaffery or Athletics Director Gary Barta before Friday night’s game.