Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones issued an apology on Tuesday after using the “m-word” to refer to little people during a tribute to a team executive who recently passed away.
The remark drew the criticism of many, including a call for a public apology from the Little People of America (LPA).
“Earlier today I made a reference which I understand may have been viewed as offensive. I apologize,” Jones said.
Jones made the controversial reference while sharing memories about former Cowboys scouting director Larry Lacewell who served during the team’s three Super Bowl wins in the 1990s. Lacewell died in May at the age of 85.
“I’m going to get me somebody, a midget, to stand up there with me and dress him up like Lace and think Lace is still out here helping at practice with us,” Jones told reporters during the Cowboys training camp in Oxnard on Tuesday, according to NBC News. “But here it is to Lace―really, and I’m serious about that.”
LPA, an organization “dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with dwarfism,” released a statement in response to the comment by Jones.
“Midget is a term that has widely been known to be derogatory for years and should be common knowledge to anyone in the public arena, such as Jerry Jones. Ignorance at this point is simply not an excuse,” the statement read.
“Any use of this disparaging slur along with suggestions or insinuations that our stature exists for amusement is deplorable and inexcusable. The millions of individuals with dwarfism around the globe already face unfair disadvantages in their daily life due to their disability including discrimination, harassment, and assault,” it added.
The organization concluded by calling Jones to apologize and “vow to use appropriate terminology rooted in respect and dignity going forward.”
The LPA was the organization responsible for seeking to abolish the use of the word when it released a statement on the issue in 2015.
“The word ‘midget’ was never coined as the official term to identify people with dwarfism, but was created as a label used to refer to people of short stature who were on public display for curiosity and sport,” the LPA wrote. “Today, the word ‘midget’ is considered a derogatory slur.”
Jones is not the only NFL personality to use the controversial term. Marvin Lewis, who coached the Cincinnati Bengals in 2014, apologized for a similar use of the word in reference to then-Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel during a radio interview.
“I’m aware that my comment on local radio last night was offensive to people of short stature and to their families and friends,” Lewis said in part. “It was thoughtless on my part to use the word I did, and not excusable, and I greatly regret it.”