SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco 49ers (search) officials promised Chinese-American leaders Tuesday they would overhaul the team's diversity policies to address anger over offensive training videos, including one that featured racial slurs about the Chinese community.
At a packed meeting in a Chinatown (search) community hall, 49ers owner John York apologized on behalf of the team and vowed to strengthen the franchise's ties to the Asian-American community.
"The 49ers want to apologize directly to you for this very offensive, tasteless and stupid training video," York said. "We are hear to listen to you and to incorporate your ideas to make sure this never happens again."
York told the audience he is working with city officials to develop new diversity awareness programs before players starts training camp next month. As former 49ers lineman Jesse Sapolu (search) shook hands with young fans, leading Asian-American city officials praised the team's efforts to work with San Francisco's Human Rights Commission to improve its anti-harassment training.
Plans to get football players to a previously scheduled diversity-training meeting last week hit a scheduling snag and about one-third of the players missed the session, York said.
York also said he had no idea how many offensive videos had been produced, since more kept "popping up."
"You get an A-plus for confession," the Rev. Norman Wong of the Presbyterian Church in Chinatown told York, "but the second step is harder: repentance."
The 49ers' public relations director, Kirk Reynolds, produced at least two in-house videos to coach players on fielding media questions. The latest was shown to the team last August during training camp in Santa Clara.
Reynolds, who resigned days after the tape became public June 1 when it was provided anonymously to the San Francisco Chronicle, said he felt the video was appropriate for the locker room, but not the general public.
Impersonating San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Reynolds opens last year's video sitting behind the mayor's desk, then goes to Chinatown, where a 49ers team consultant wearing thick glasses and fake buck teeth translates a Chinese-language newspaper in broken English. Next comes a topless, lesbian wedding filmed at a strip club, and a scene at the baseball stadium where Reynolds as the mayor accepts a bribe. It ends with a topless scene in the strip club's dressing room.
The release of the tape — and another offensive training film from 2003 shown by television station KRON last week — prompted intense criticism from Newsom and leaders of some of the minority communities mocked in the videos.
Team officials had already met previously with leaders of the gay and Asian communities and more community meetings are expected in the coming weeks.
The videos seemed to break a social compact between the sports franchise and its San Francisco fans, many of whom felt betrayed by the team's failure to understand the diversity of its supporters.
City officials, including Supervisor Fiona Ma, Public Defender Jeff Adachi and incoming city administrator and former Human Rights Commission Director Ed Lee said the team had taken a good step by opening dialogue with the Asian-American community.
Ma likened the offensive videos to the mistakes made by an erring child. While she urged her constituents not to disown the team, the team's apology was clearly just a first step.
"When I saw that video, it was heartbreaking," said Micah Fong, 18. "Hopefully you can do something to make amends to the youth around San Francisco that are offended by this."