Group boycotts Nuggets

Posted: Friday, December 14, 2001

DENVER -- Hispanic groups launched a boycott Thursday of the Denver Nuggets, demanding Dan Issel be replaced as coach after he shouted an insensitive ethnic remark and a profanity at a fan in the crowd.

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which had distributed Nuggets tickets to some of its member businesses, said more than 100 of the tickets had been returned. The chamber said it would give these tickets back to the corporation that had donated them in the first place.

The chamber said its members would boycott the Nuggets' games until Issel was fired.

''He stopped and looked up and he saw that he was looking at a Mexican,'' chamber member Veronica Barela said. ''Then he referred to him in a derogatory way. In my opinion that came from his heart.''

The Washington-based League of United Latin American Citizens said Issel should resign.

The actions came amid debate over whether Issel's four-game suspension by the team was enough or if he should be fired.

Radio talk shows were filled with callers who expressed strong opinions on each sides, and the Rocky Mountain News published an editorial that said Issel deserved a stronger punishment but did not call for his resignation. The newspaper also suggested he reassess his stint with the team.

As Issel walked off the court after a 99-96 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday night, he became involved in a shouting match with a fan. Issel yelled: ''Go drink another beer, you Mexican ...,'' adding an expletive at the end of the sentence.

Issel apologized to the team, the community and the fan. He was suspended without pay for four games, costing him more than $112,000.

Bobby Bowman, 23, of Thornton, Colo., has said he was the target of Issel's comments. Described in local media as Hispanic, Bowman said the coach should not be fired for his remark but should resign because of the team's poor record.

Bowman did not return messages left by The Associated Press seeking comment Thursday.

Assistant coach Mike Evans led the Nuggets' practice as the team prepared for Thursday's home game against Memphis. He said Issel was distraught about the situation.

''I know what happened and the effects it's had on the Hispanic community,'' Evans said. ''Look, I grew up in the South in the '60s and I know what people are feeling out there.

''I feel for Dan because he is my friend and I am not going to address the situation with Dan any more.''

The players voiced support.

''Everyone in the locker room knows Dan the man and he is not a racist,'' forward George McCloud said. ''It was a situation where his emotions were running, frustrated by the fact we are losing.''

Nuggets spokesman Tommy Sheppard said team officials planned to meet with the Hispanic chamber on Friday, adding the angry messages and reaction so far do not reflect the mood of the town.

''Right now our aim is to meet with leaders in the Hispanic community and see how we can reach out and make this a better city,'' he said.

Issel's remark was the second controversy to hit the team in the last week. Coming off a five-game losing streak, the 7-14 Nuggets were already dealing with the demand of their leading scorer, Nick Van Exel, to be traded.

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