Fairmont Raceway has issued an apology after coming under fire for initially backing its stadium announcer in the wake of racist comments he made while commentating at an event in Iowa.
Promoter John McCorkell says he made a "bad mistake" in the wake of the controversy over comments made by announcer Len Oelke, who it was announced Thursday will now be taking a leave of absence from the raceway until the end of the season.
Oelke made headlines after he filled in at a speedway event in Algona, Iowa, on July 15, during which he ranted against athletes who kneel during the national anthem, as well as the NFL's recent decision to play "Lift Every Voice and Sing" – which is dubbed the "Black national anthem" – before games this year.
In the wake of the controversy, Fairmont Raceway promoter John McCorkell initially backed Oelke, saying he had been announcing at Fairmont for "many years" and that he does "agree with all of Lons (sic) comments and opinions."
"He will absolutely be announcing tomorrow night," the promoter promised.
But he has subsequently backtracked on his comments, issuing a statement on Thursday in which he said he made a "bad mistake."
"Sometimes in life you realize you made a mistake, and this is one of those times. And this was a bad mistake," he wrote.
"I realize I cannot take back or fix what I said, but I would like to say I was wrong and I am sorry for the comments that I made last week.
"I learned a lot about what some of the underlying deeper issues are for a lot of people. I guess I have learned that you cannot always just look at things from your own perspective. Sometimes you have to keep an open mind and to try to look at things from someone else's perspective."
During the monologue in question, Oelke described "Life Every Voice and Sing" as being “for those folks, I guess the darker toned skin color, I’ll just say, Blacks.”
He continued: "Here's our social service announcement if you won't stand for our flag, if you're going to take a knee... I got four words for you: find a different country. If you won't do it, get the hell out of Dodge."