Porcher, Harrington state support

Updated: December 17, 2003, 2:05 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Lions players were left to explain their boss' latest misstep after team president and general manager Matt Millen declined to answer questions Monday about using a gay epithet toward Kansas City receiver Johnnie Morton.

"He apologized, right?" defensive end Robert Porcher, who played several seasons with Morton on the Lions. "What else can he do?"

Porcher's comments were published in Tuesday's editions of the Detroit Free Press. Porcher also appeared to spread some of the blame for Millen calling Morton a "fa----". The exchange was preceeded by Morton snubbing Millen when Millen tried to congratulate him after the Chiefs' victory Sunday.

"It's obvious Johnnie is still really bothered by the way he was released or how his relationship with the Lions ended," Porcher told the Free Press. "But that just shows me the guy is still very passionate about this organization, which a lot of players are."

Porcher, though, did question why he and his teammates, and not Millen, were having to provide explanations.

"Matt is the one you guys need to be directing these questions to," Porcher said. "Why are we answering questions about something that happened -- not even in our locker room, and we didn't know about it until [Monday] morning? I just don't think that's fair to the players that we're being asked questions like this."

Lions quarterback Joey Harrington also said he believed Millen made a mistake, but attributed it to the fiery former player's passionate nature.

"I think he reacted the way he did because Johnnie didn't treat him with respect, and he was obviously trying to patch things up and tell him congratulations," Harrington told the Free Press. "One of the reasons I like Matt so much is that he's passionate and he's emotional. He obviously cares about everything he's doing here, but he made a mistake in the way he dealt with that situation. He made an emotional decision and, obviously, it wasn't right."

Millen apologized Monday for his choice of language toward Morton.

"Unfortunately, I retaliated with a derogatory term directed toward Johnnie," Millen said in a statement Sunday night. "I apologize if I offended anyone. It was certainly not meant to do anything other than express my frustration and disappointment."

Sean Kosofsky, policy director for the Triangle Foundation, a gay and lesbian advocacy group, told the Free Press that Millen's apology alone was a strong enough message against the type of language he used.

"We are pleased that so many voices in the sports world have condemned the statements, but we feel it unnecessary to call for his resignation, as some have done," Kosofsky said. "He has apologized several times, and for a visible leader in professional sports to apologize sends a strong signal that anti-gay epithets are never appropriate, even in the locker room.

"Sometimes we all say things we don't mean. We don't believe Millen harbors any animus toward gays or lesbians."

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