University of Kansas

December 10, 2013

Kansas City sportscaster accused of on-air slur against Jayhawks

Did KSHB’s Jack Harry refer to the Kansas Jayhawks as “Gayhawks”? He and the station say no, but plenty of KU fans are up in arms.

Did KSHB’s Jack Harry refer to the Kansas Jayhawks as “Gayhawks”? He and the station say no, but plenty of KU fans are up in arms.

Here’s what we know. Sunday night, sports director Harry was chatting with Frank Boal during a “41 Sports Sunday” segment on KSHB’s late news.

“But,” Harry asked Boal, “don’t you think they’re overrated, these Jayhawks” — and at this point he either repeated “Jayhawks” or said something like “Gayhawks.” In a YouTube clip making the rounds on social media, the second word is a bit hard to make out.

Harry’s stance is that he didn’t use the term at all. He addressed the controversy on KSHB’s 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts Monday and also responded in a YouTube video.

Tuesday morning, Harry sounded genuinely distressed by the uproar.

“I have never even thought about that word, even using that word. I haven’t used that word to my friends,” Harry told The Star.

“You don’t want to be called a bigot,” he added. “The hatred and the vitriol (on social media) — it’s beyond me.”

Yes, he’s aware that he’s viewed as an MU fan. But Sunday night, he says, he did a commentary on what Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel did wrong this season.

“In this instance, there’s this deepseated vengeance between some KU people and my reporting,” Harry said. “This was an opportunity to jump on a guy. That’s the thing with Twitter. Somebody puts something up and everybody believes it, believes it’s the gospel.”

Also Tuesday, Channel 41 news director Carrie Hofmann reiterated the station’s support of Harry but apologized if some viewers heard something other than “Jayhawks.”

“I think he said Jayhawks,” Hofmann told The Star. “Now, I think people can hear ‘Gayhawks’ as I have when you’re trying to listen for ‘Gayhawks.’

“I think it’s a bit of a flub and he was getting animated, (but) I do not think he said ‘Gayhawks.’”

She added: “This certainly isn’t the first time he’s had issues with KU fans in particular. There’s a definite ‘love to hate Jack’ by KU fans.”

Still, she said Harry was “completely flabbergasted, shocked” when he got wind of the controversy.

Randy Thurman, KSHB’s creative services director, said the station talked “to every crew member here that night who saw it live” on the set, including Boal. “Everyone is just as surprised by this,” Thurman said.

In the YouTube response, Harry says in part: “Somehow, someway, I don’t know what happened, but it got out on the social media that I used a derogatory term in talking about the Kansas Jayhawks. I’ve had my go-arounds with Jayhawk fans, but I would never say what I have been accused of.”

The station also issued a response Monday on its website and on Facebook.

It also tweeted this: “We stand by Jack and encourage him to speak his mind when it comes to sports in Kansas City and beyond. We checked the video (of the broadcast), our own video, spoke w/ Jack, and determined he didn’t say (‘Gayhawks’).”

Jayhawks fans on social media didn’t sound appeased, like this commenter on YouTube: “Um but he DID say it. It may have been a slip. but he did say it. He may not have meant it (though he likely did) — but he cannot deny this.”

The opinionated Harry is a fixture on Kansas City television. He has covered sports for three local stations, starting at WDAF, Channel 4, in the early 1970s. In 2002, after retiring as the longtime sports anchor at KCTV-5, he joined Channel 41.

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