Lawmaker offers apology for remark

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The Minnesota legislator whose NBA-related tweet aroused cries of racism this past weekend isn't backing down.

Five-term Republican state Rep. Pat Garofalo has faced an avalanche of criticism for suggesting there would be more street crime if teams in the professional basketball league folded. 

Within two hours of his tweet, more than 600 people retweeted it and hundreds more responded. Many called the comment in the tweet racist.

When contacted by ESPN on Sunday, Garofalo did not back off or claim that his account had been hacked.

"I was talking about the NBA's high arrest rate and that their punishment for positive drug tests are weaker than other leagues. No intent beyond that," he said. "The culture among many pro athletes that they are above the law is the problem, not people like me pointing that problem out."

Less than 24 hours later, however, Garofalo offered an apology in a written 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," Garofalo said in the statement, which was released Monday morning. "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."

Garofalo's point on drug testing has been made in the past. The NBA's anti-doping testing program has drawn criticism from, among others, the World Anti-Doping Agency. For example, an NBA player would not be suspended for using marijuana until a third positive test.

Garofalo told KARE 11 in Minnesota that the negative reaction came as a surprise to him and that his tweet had nothing to do with the fact that about three-fourths of the NBA's players are black.

That didn't stop the accusations that the tweet was racist.

"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."

Garofalo represents a district south of the Twin Cities and is seeking a sixth term in the fall.

Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.

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