ST. PAUL, Minn. - A Minnesota lawmaker is offering his "sincere apologies" following a message he sent out on his Twitter account that some interpreted as racist.
On Sunday night Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) tweeted:
The statement was retweeted more than 1,500 times followed by accusations that Garofalo is racist, as many of the players in the NBA are African American.
Response to the tweet spread across the internet like wildfire with the first person to respond tweeting, "The racial and racist undertones in this comment is beyond alarming."
Monday morning Garofalo released the following statement:
"In the last 24 hours, I've had the opportunity to re-learn one of life's lessons: whenever any of us are offering opinions, it is best to refer to people as individuals as opposed to groups. Last night, I publicly commented on the NBA and I sincerely apologize to those who I unfairly categorized. The NBA has many examples of players and owners who are role models for our communities and for our country. Those individuals did not deserve that criticism and I apologize. In addition, it's been brought to my attention that I was mistaken and the NBA policy on drug enforcement is stronger than I previously believed. Again, I offer my sincere apologies for my comments."
Capitol press conference
Rep. Garofalo, speaking to reporters at the State Capitol Monday afternoon, said he'd been flooded with emails and Twitter replies, and was especially moved by messages from African American parents who talked about how hard it is to watch their children be stereotyped because of the color of their skin.
"It's not fair to take all NBA players and put them into one bucket, just like it's not fair to put all elected officials or all managers into one bucket," Garofalo said.
The five-term Republican has been known to be outspoken at the Capitol, and not pull punches when it comes to his criticism of Democrats and teachers unions. He was one of only four Republicans in the House to support the gay marriage during the 2013 session, and the only one of those four who earned endorsement from his district GOP party for 2014.
He's posted more than 8,000 tweets since joining the social networking and news streaming site. But Garofalo said he learned not criticize an entire group of people, when his trouble is with the behavior of a few individuals.
"I don't have a racist bone in my body. I pride myself in the fact that I've tutored in inner city Minneapolis," Garofalo asserted.
"And it addition I've been a strong advocate for some of the charter schools in our communities."
At the same time, he said none of that gave him a free pass to offend people reading Twitter.
"But there's no excuses. I apologize and I'm responsible for my actions. I just want to promise everybody I'll do my best to not make that mistake again."
Garofalo also said he was originally incorrect when it comes to the NBA's position on marijuana.
"I was under the mistaken impression that the National Basketball Association did not test for marijuana. In fact, that is false. That is a drug policy violation, and clearly something stated in their collective bargaining agreement."
He said he woke up Monday thinking about Malik Sealy, the Timberwolves player who was killed by a wrong-way drunk driver in 2000. Garofalo said his blanket statement about NBA players dishonored the legacy of Sealy and men like him.
"Upon reflection I realized it wasn't fair to have his family, have his memory put into that bucket of some of the more visible actions others have taken."
Garofalo wasn't as contrite in his tone Sunday, while engaging with followers on Twitter.
"I reject that any criticism of athletes and their conduct is somehow racist," Garofalo told KARE 11.
Garofalo said that the negative reaction came as a surprise and that his tweet had nothing to do with the fact that the majority of NBA athletes are African American.
"I was talking about the NBA's high arrest rate," he said.
Garofalo said he was referencing an attitude among professional athletes in which they think they are above the law.
"I really don't understand how being critical of a culture of pro athletes has anything to do with race," Garofalo said. "This is a behavior that transcends the race of the athlete, and it seems to be a culture in all professional sports these days."
A commentator from Deadspin.com put together a list of Garofalo NBA rants that is allegedly from the lawmaker's Twitter account.
Pat Garofalo was first elected to the legislature in 2004, and is currently seeking his sixth term.