Marvin Lewis’s apology is lacking


Bengals coach Marvin Lewis has apologized for referring to Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel as a “midget.” But Lewis apologized to the wrong people.

In his apology, Lewis mentioned Manziel, the Browns and Browns fans. Lewis failed to mention people of short stature, the people who, by extension, Lewis was really insulting.

I do not believe Lewis meant any offense with his choice of words. I do not believe the majority of people who use the word “midget” mean any offense. But the word is, indeed, offensive. Little People of America, a nonprofit organization that provides support for people of short stature, notes that the word has negative connotations and is often used as an insult toward the people with the more than 200 different medical conditions that are commonly referred to as types of dwarfism.

“While we understand that no group can dictate what words are spoken or images are projected, we hope to continue to raise awareness around the dwarfism community and use of the word ‘midget’ – a word that many people of short stature consider a slur and a word closely associated with the public objectification of people of short stature,” Little People of America says.

When I pointed out on Twitter that many short-statured people consider the word offensive, I was besieged by people telling me that I need to lighten up and that the world is too politically correct. Many of those people called me a “midget” and used other slurs as well, to emphasize that they won’t allow anyone to take away their right to slur anyone they please.

But I was also contacted by a few little people, some of whom identified themselves as Bengals fans, who told me that Lewis’s word hurt. One Bengals fan, Christopher Horndt, told me that he was disappointed in Lewis’s word choice but hopes the incident will become an opportunity for people to consider that their words can hurt.

“I am 3’5″ and have a type of dwarfism known as spondylopiphyseal dysplasia congenita,” Horndt told me via email. “In public, I get various reactions, ranging from children staring and shouting excitedly to his or her parents, ‘Look at the midget!’ or the children telling me to my face that I ‘don’t look like a real person.'”

Dave Spradlin was another Bengals fan who contacted me shortly after Lewis made his comment.

“I understand the stares and whatnot I receive on a daily basis (from both adults and children). It happens, I’m different,” Spradlin said. “But when someone, like Marvin did today, takes a word so offensive to a group of people who just want to live a normal life as much as they can, and uses it to try to hurt someone’s feelings or deface them or whatever he wants to call it. It’s straight wrong, unmoral, and ignorant. ‘Midget’ comes from freak shows and carnivals from years ago. It’s time he understood that. I’m a fan of the Bengals, but Marvin just left the most disgusting taste in my mouth.”

This isn’t about taking away anyone’s right to speak. This is about simple human decency, and not using words that offend others. I bet Marvin Lewis has heard slurs that anger him. I bet Lewis would be saddened if he heard his children called a slur. I bet if Lewis had a child with dwarfism, Lewis wouldn’t use the word “midget,” and he’d be infuriated if he heard others use it.

So if you wouldn’t want your own child to be slurred, why would you use a slur toward anyone else? The m-word is a word that all of us should take out of our vocabularies.

148 responses to “Marvin Lewis’s apology is lacking

  1. I am more astounded that Marvin Lewis has managed to keep a job this long. Since taking over in 2003, Lewis has gone 90-86 while going 0-5 in the postseason. He must have pictures of someone in the organization.

  2. only apology to the height impaired should be for associating a loser like Manziel with them. I would be insulted if i were short in stature.

  3. You would think this guy would be more understanding as he falls short year in and year out.

    Short lives matter Marvin.

  4. Just a class organization from top to bottom. Maybe he learned etiquette as a member of the Ravens. That midget is gonna end his season on Sunday. Hope he stays forever as head coach. -AFC North

  5. Mr. Spradlin’s argument is coherent and intellectually spot on.

    When I hear people use the word “retarded” I make the same case. When you use a term that identifies people’s disability (or medical condition) as a put down, you are really hurting the innocent. It devalues the group of people described by that term, whatever it is.

    It’s wrong and it disgusts me. I say that as someone who generally cringes at PC bs. And, no I don’t have anyone challenged in my life.

  6. Gosh, what an insult. I don’t know if poor little Johnny Manziel will ever be able to get over the psychological trauma.

  7. I think short people should be more offended that they were called a Cleveland Browns player.

  8. When I pointed out on Twitter that many short-statured people consider the word offensive, I was besieged by people telling me that I need to lighten up and that the world is too politically correct. Many of those people called me a “midget” and used other slurs as well, to emphasize that they won’t allow anyone to take away their right to slur anyone they please.

    Shame on those people for calling you out. The way you feel about this word is the same way I feel about the word “retard.” You can say someone is being stupid, but when you say something/someone is “retarded,” I find that offensive as my brother is autistic. He’s just as normal as anyone on this planet. Same goes for little people.

    Thank you for writing this article and I support your position.

  9. There’s plenty of names I would call Manziel and midget would probably be a great compliment to the others I would use.

  10. I have always been perplexed as to how/why Marvin Lewis is the second longest tenured coach in the NFL behind Bill Belichick. The Bengals are never lacking in talent, consistently underperform, yet year after year Lewis is allowed to stumble his way to unwavering job security. It’s a real head scratcher.

  11. I am guessing that Marvin has been called things equally offensive to people of a certain color. I really doubt he meant any harm, he apologized – move on. He should have just called Manziel a “shrimp.” But then again, that would have offended a whole different group – but they sure are delicious!

  12. I’m still more offended by his bragging on the defensive player for hitting Jimmy Graham after the whistle directly in the injured shoulder on the report and talking about how taking him off the field helped the team.

  13. He should have heeded that tiny little voice in the back of his head telling him to use “vertically challenged.”

    So are going to grab our pitchforks and torches and demand the “Giants” remove their insulting team name too?

  14. Classless Bengals coach, whose team deserves the beat-down that it will receive from Johnny and the Browns on Sunday.

    How does this guy even have a job?

  15. As a Bengals fan I hate having Marvin Lewis at this team’s coach. He has won nothing in 12 years and was humiliated by the Browns a month ago on national TV. Who is he to say anything about anyone else in the league? He has this arrogance to him because he’s been the coach for 12 years but he chooses to forget he still hasn’t even won a playoff game. He deserves to get beat Sunday but he’ll just giggle again at the post game press conference because he has no accountability.

  16. “…In his apology, Lewis mentioned Manziel, the Browns and Browns fans”…Yeah! The way Hoyer has been playing he should have also included the City of Cleveland, Northeast Ohio and people that appreciate good quarterbacking worldwide!

  17. So we have the “F” word, the “N” word, then the “R” word for the team in Washington, now the “M” word? Pretty soon it will be hard to type I sentence without offending somebody. I agree with the F and the N, but after that it’s getting out of hand.

  18. Many people forget Lewis was defensive coordinator/de facto assistant HC of the Washington Pinkskins NFL team the year Steve Superior was their Head Coach …

  19. PERFECT MARVIN, Just give the Browns more reasons to kick the bunGals a** Please give them some more reasons. You and you Tall Q/B coming to Cleveland now

  20. It would be funny if the Bengals lost and a bunch of Munchkins ran out onto the field and beat the hell out of Coach Marvin. That would learn him.

  21. No one cares. If you do, that’s your problem.

    Wait, I’m deeply sorry for my insensitive comments above. I didn’t mean to offend anyone.

  22. “Marvin Lewis’s apology is lacking”-so what! Leave Marvin Lewis alone, I’m not even a Cincinnati Bengals fan, but I can’t stand that twerp (Manziel)……………………….

  23. Blacknole08

    So it’s ok to insult someone as long as they are not a little person or don’t have some other deformity? If you can call ppl stupid why can’t u use other words to insult them. Or why not just not insult them at all. Any insult is offensive to the person getting insulted. So this stupid “I find that offensive” stuff is such a joke. Yes we know its offensive, that’s why we called an enemy it. We are not gonna call an enemy a rose, unless they are red and thrn they would find it offensive

  24. Question of the morning

    What is more ridiculous? Pretending “midget” is a slur, or Bengals fans acting like Lewis calling their backup QB one is going to make them play with some sort of extra vigor?

  25. Seriously? This PC crap has gone too far. Midget is actually a word in the dictionary among others and who cares who says it. People have gotten way too sensitive, get their feelings hurt – so what, develop some thicker skin people. Things only bother you IF YOU LET THEM. Good grief!

  26. The LA Raiders are gonna tear Marvin apart now! The attention begging Bengals gotta watch their backs, all the little people gonna tear them up.

  27. I now hope Cincinnati crushes the Browns. Oh, here come the thumbs downs. :p That rhymed. 🙂

  28. I think Marvin Lewis should have waited until after he plays Manziel to try and poke fun at him. The way things are going, this “small” QB will out perform his $100 million guy and send the Bengals one step closer to watching the playoffs from the couch.

  29. My son is a little person, and has had to deal with varying degrees of insults, string and thoughtless exclamations from people for most of his life. What Marvin Lewis (and many other people) fail to understand is that when you say something that VERY CLEARLY indicates that being short is somehow a character flaw or bad thing, you are actually commenting on ALL short people.

    Had Lewis come out and said something like:

    ‘Sure, I may have beaten my wife, and maybe I stole lots of money from people, and OK, I may have molested a bunch of women…BUT AT LEAST I AM NOT SHORT!’

    … then maybe people would get it. That is the message many little people hear from those who toss around words like ‘midget’ as a slur.

  30. When we accuse someone of uttering a slur, does it not connotative intent by the user of the word to demean?

    Obviously Marvin was using it as an adjective to describe Manziel’s impish shire-dweller stature. He should have called him a hobbit. Or a elf. A Brownie Elf.

    In honor of the holiday season.

  31. Marvin is just jealous that Manziel is Waaaayyyyyyyyyy better than his qb and Manziel hasn’t started a single game yet. Ofer in the playoffs. enough said.

  32. I predict a 2 game suspension. Then when TMZ posts the video of Manziel standing next to Lebron at the Cavs game and we see how short he really is, Goodell will change it to an indefinite suspension.

  33. Am I the only one who finds it amazing that the word midget can be considered offensive but dwarf isn’t?

    I cant relate to being a “little person”, but to me, someone calling me a little person would feel patronizing. Midget is just a term that I know means I’m little. I may sound ignorant but it’s not a slur to me- it’s just, what it is. Little people to me would be far more insulting.

  34. He was trying to be offensive and for the first time he succeeded. Give the guy a break, he’s been a defensive coordinator most of his career.

  35. So midgets don’t like being called midgets huh? I support all dry stereotypes. After all variety is the spice of life. Bengals fans should feel greatfull to have Lewis this long and to be competitive every year. I sure remember a time after wyche where they weren’t for quite some time. Not sure how much Lewis has to do with it but, they seem to not sign every head case in the league anymore either. I’m not a bengals fan but, go bengals. And go Marvin as well.

  36. Lifetime ban.

    It’s the only way to deal with things like this. There should be a lifetime ban anytime anybody says anything that offends anybody else.

    NFL has an image to protect, damnit.

  37. If you own an old MG Midget, do you have to rename it MG Little Person? How about Canada’s Midget Football League? And on Pearl Harbor day, discussing the Japanese below surface attacks do we need to say little person submarines?

    The word is only offensive when used to refer to people as Marvin Lewis did, not the world in general. If he had said “pygmy” instead of “midget” would everyone still be offended?

  38. The final Youth Hockey league age level is called Midgets.
    Mites, Squirts, Pee Wees, Bantams and then Midgets

    It’s been called that for a LONG time.
    An abbreviated season that basically serves as a tuneup for High school hockey.

    Where is the hue and cry toward USA Hockey about changing this name?

    conceivably, it should be equally offensive as the Redskins name

  39. Marvin had nothing to apologize for. How silly is this society getting. Get over yourselves people. Pretty soon we’ll have to apologize for saying please and thank you.

  40. Should have known better, he made a mistake, a stupid mistake but he apologized. People make mistakes. Time to move on.

    Instead ask him about how Dalton 2.0 will do in the big games coming up.

  41. My children (and grandchildren) have absolutely no issue with being slurred. Comes from being raised to know that slurs are merely words. But in today’s emasculated America (thanks libs), too many are too sensitive to sonic vibrations. Not to mention a million other “offenses” that would have been laughed away a generation ago.

  42. He should be suspended. This is bullying.

    He should be fined. This is derogatory.
    ~Rex Ryan


  43. So, you can’t use the word midget but you can have a team named the Redskins? That’s where we are with political correctness? We pick and choose who we marginalize? I don’t get how anyone can hold Lewis accountable when the whole league supports racism. The media is a joke, and the minorities and disenfranchised are always the punchline

  44. Doesn’t it also seem Manziel’s head is just too impossibly small for his more normal-sized body?

  45. New Living Translation
    They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”

  46. The thing about language is that the person speaking doesn’t get to choose who is offended by it.

    If someone tells a person that certain words are offensive to them, and that person continues to use those words, then that person is an insensitive, ignorant jerk.

  47. Wait, I guess Marvin should’ve included his whole thought on Manziel:

    “Johnny is a mental midget!”

    That should fit better. No apol

  48. From


    [mij-it] IPA Syllables

    Word Origin

    an extremely small person having normal physical proportions.

    any animal or thing that is very small for its kind.
    very small or of a class below the usual size.

    being a miniature replica or model.

  49. Anyone else embarassed for how fall America has fallen? People need to be reminded that there is no such thing as the right to not be offended. People can say as they please and if you are offended by it, keep your opinions to yourself and move on. Lewis had no reason to apologize for anything and as a result, the only thing it is lacking is a big one finger salute to anyone who said he should apologize.

  50. infectorman says:
    An abbreviated season that basically serves as a tuneup for High school hockey.
    Midget hockey is a tune-up for Juniors. High School hockey in Canada isn’t serious and really just used as free ice time for bantam & midget players. Think of it more as a tune-up for beer league.

  51. this pretty much seals the deal.
    Bengals lose to Browns off of a sparked Manziel debut
    Bengals get smoked by a Den team playing for 1st rd bye
    Bengals get destroyed by Steelers vying for division with Bal


  52. I’m somewhat surprised that these folks would rather be called “little people.” To me, that sound degrading and minimizing. And frankly, it sounds silly. Perhaps there’s no suitable alternative.

  53. Did Lewis actually imply that being short is a “character” flaw..?

    Or, perhaps pure-form quarterbacks need to be tall… or, simply, not-short.

    I can recall all sorts of pre-draft analysis here and elsewhere that knock a QB for being short. Does using the “midget” word in that context actually explicitly push it into a “character” flaw issue? Leaving out a word when specifically criticizing his height keeps it all just swell then?

    Do some of you realize there are “midget” and “pee wee” football leagues out there for kids? I doubt they’re implying anything negative about dwarfism and all that. Perhaps Marvin Lewis’ apology was designed to keep it in the football realm.

  54. I think all the complaining about people being oversensitive and limiting our vocabulary are being shortsighted (pardon the pun). 100 years ago, words like dago, kike, mick and wop were pretty common ethnic slurs. Are any of those heard much anymore? If so, are we being oversensitive for not using those? I don’t think so.

    I am profoundly deaf, and have been since birth. I call myself Deaf with a capital D to signify that I am culturally deaf, since I use American Sign Language and socialize mostly with other signers. Now, many people with hearing loss are uncomfortable with the terms “deaf” and “hard of hearing”. So they have used terms like “hearing-impaired” or “with hearing loss”. Now, “audiologically challenged” would be carrying it a little too far.

    When someone tells you they find a term offensive, you should take a minute and consider why they would consider it offensive. Think about all the positive and negative usage of that word and also its roots.

    For example, “midget” as opposed to “dwarf”, I can think of an usage that indicate a difference between those words: “intellectual midget” or “mental midget” as the opposite of “intellectual giant”. Since dwarf is used as an antonym of giant in description of stature, why don’t we say “intellectual dwarf”? Because the term dwarf does not have the same negative connotation that the term midget does that allows us to say “intellectual midget”. Therefore, the term midget is more insulting than the term dwarf.

  55. Why doesnt everyone just come up with a list of words we CAN say. Of course that list would have to be amended and changed because people always seem to be offended by something.

    We are becoming a boring, politically correct group of people here in the US. Soon we will only be able to say the word “the” as all of the other words will be on the ever-growing “offensive” list.

  56. This moron is the anti-Bruce Arians…

    Arians takes what little he has and wins…

    This jerk takes a lot and turns it into nothing.

  57. I like Manziel, his socially conscious cash hand gestures bring much needed attention to the issues of wealth disparity and income inequality. Plus he looks like Johnny Cab from Total Recall.

    “Hope you enjoyed the ride!”

  58. With all the real problems in the world, I just can’t muster up any indignation over this one.

    I would apologize, but I know everybody would think I was insincere and wouldn’t accept my apology anyway.

  59. This has nothing to do with political correctness, and everything to do with respecting people. If a word offends people, stop using it. What’s so hard about that? Just because terms used to be acceptable doesn’t mean we should keep using them. Ni##er was regularly used in the past, but isn’t an acceptable term today. If black people want to call each other this, that’s their choice. But it is definitely offensive for white people to use it. Words like midget and retard are offensive and hurtful to most people with learning disabilities. For a long time, people with deslexia were called retarded. This happened to my sister-in-law, and it was harmful to her. She grew up believing she was stupid, and it stayed with her for twenty years. All that time, her self confidence was destroyed. How do parents with kids who are autistic feel when people use the word retarded? Not good, I can assure you. Midget is the same thing. If it offends or hurts little people, why would you continue using it? It’s about treating all people with dignity and respect. If you learn certain words hurt, only an insensitive jackass. and mean spirited people would continue using it.

  60. “Short” sounds mean too. We should think of nicer words for everything, and then have even nicer, more non-descript words ready in the wings for when people start feigning offense at those words for their 15 minutes on the moral high-horse.

  61. I’ve tried to understand the uproar but it makes no sense. When most people use the word midget they mean small or short. That’s it. Somehow, people interpret it as some sort of insult meaning so small or short that they should be shunned or removed from society (or something equally absurd) and thus the insult is perceived. They seem to be actually offended by the excluding/including concept of normal.

    Based on the logic of the offended, why isn’t the term giant equally offensive? Any word can be offensive based on tone and context. If you have to be mad about something be mad at the intended idea rather than the word.

  62. @2ndaryinsanity-

    The problem is that people don’t always use care or logic in what they say is offensive, and calling someone a bigot or something is offensive in and of itsef so the “PC/Respect” movement can become a weapon if used irresponsibly. Also, it can become all about publicity and money for the “offended” party. And in the end, words only have the power that we give them.

    There’s a line between what we should let go as humans and their thoughts being human and what we should be offended and on the attack about. Society hasn’t been able to find that line recently.

  63. Call me mean spirited then. Instead of assuming what I meant, how about asking?

    There are different definitions for both terms, why do you assume that I’m using the derogatory one?

    Maybe that reflects more on you, than on me.

  64. 2ndaryinsanity says:
    Dec 9, 2014 11:12 AM
    This has nothing to do with political correctness, and everything to do with respecting people. If a word offends people, stop using it. What’s so hard about that?

    By the way, there’s no law against being mean spirited or an insensitive jackass.

    We can’t revise all speech until no one ever has their feelings hurt, ever. It’s getting absurd. People need to move on with their day and stop focusing on minor crap like this.

    The guy said “midget.” So the hell what. Get a grip. It’s a damn word. It’s not like he took Manziel and dwarf-tossed him (which, actually, would be pretty funny).

  65. Lighten up Francis……

    Did the media find a new victim to extract a pound of flesh from? Not that he didn’t apologize but his apology didn’t include enough people smh…..

  66. Incidentally, the reason Lewis still has a job is because Mike Brown loves him. Brown will not get rid of Lewis until he absolutely has no other choice, and it’s not related to money. Brown just loves Lewis, presumably because Lewis doesn’t talk back to him.

    Remember, when Lewis was hired, the Bengals had also interview Tom Coughlin. Brown sure wasn’t having any of that, and Coughlin wasn’t having any of Brown. Coughlin would have told Brown how it was. Lewis was, and is, appropriately deferential.

    Lewis will be the coach for years to come if Brown has his way.

  67. You don’t get to decide what is a slur to people being slurred. Why is that basic concept so difficult for… some people to understand. Little People have decided that’s what they prefer to be called. You don’t get an opinion. You don’t get to decide Little Person is offensive.

    Also, if you believe dwarfism is about being “short” or “small in stature” or “vertically challenged”, you are part of the problem.


  69. Who cares? Just another example of you can’t say anything anymore without someone being offended. God forbid if someone call Lebron a giant.

  70. I hear Daniel Snyder is going to hire a PR company and get a bunch of polls from tall people who say it’s ok to use the word midget.

    Marvin, put it in ALL CAPS next time!

  71. Oh stop. Just stop. “Midget” is not a slur. It’s just not the politically correct term, nor the preferred term. I’m so sick of liberal media blowhards and elitists deciding what can be said and what can’t be said. That’s exactly what’s happening here.

    I’m no fan, but Lewis shouldn’t have apologized at all. He should have laughed and told anyone who was annoyed (Browns fans, Manziel, the Browns team) or offended (little people) to get a friggin’ life.

  72. @2ndaryinsanity: i hereby notify you that i am offended that you called me and those with my opinion “insensitive jackass[es]”. I await your apology and obviously this term may never be used again without social shunning and judgment. Regards, Management

  73. No offense to the offended, but I refuse to play this silly game. It has gotten to the point where we need a weekly, if not daily, update of the words that someone, someplace, finds offensive.

    I am 50% Polish. If you want to call me a Po**ck, knock yourself out, I’ve been called much worse by better people than you. The minute I let that word, or any word, offend me as an adult, I have let you win whatever silly game you may be playing.

    A “derogatory” word used in anger only means that the person using it is a moron. Oops, googled it, the “m” word is considered to be inappropriate. They are idiots then. Oops the “i” word is a no-no too. Okay, then they are bad bad people. Or is the “b” word “b” too? Someone please send me an updated list ASAP, my head is swimming.

  74. Midget was acceptable until it suddenly was given a pejorative connotation. Whatever idiot term people come up with next will be fine for a few years until over sensitive people decide it too is hurtful. In the end, it’s just a constant merry-go-round choosing terms that are acceptable. Midget, vertically challenged, shorter than average, dwarf, etc., it’s just a word. The real issue is how someone directs it in the context of the full statement. Just look at all the uses–acceptable and not acceptable–of the n word.

  75. Funny how parenting must be lacking in our society. My parents taught me to respect people. If I was told if a word was offensive to someone, I chose another word. This isn’t difficult. This did not make me less of a man. Didn’t make me less secure in myself or my opinions. Didn’t make me any less intelligent. I was told this was being considerate. Anyone know this word? Does anyone teach this anymore?

    I get the feeling that it is more important to say whatever you want, be true to who you are, than to be respectful of someone else. If insulting people with your word use is true to who you are, you need to look in the mirror a little more often.

  76. The power in words is not in the speaker but the audience.

    Unless you flinch (acquiesce your strength and power), that slur is no more offensive than being called an “elbow”.

    Toughen up people, you hold the key to the shackles.

  77. Whatever. Next will be that dwarfism is a bad word. Then it will be “small people” is a bad term. It’s just a constant shifting of words because people can’t handle overtly labeling anything. The condition is still the condition. If he had called Manziel a “small person” in referring to a midget, he would have been called out for that. Big freaking deal. When did America become a sensitive 8 year old that this kind of story become an actual media story? What a soft nation this has become.

  78. If it would have been a racial slur, he would be the first in line to whack on somebody….hey where’s Tony Dungy?! Pathetic double standards. Just as a side note Marvin, you are a really bad coach too.

  79. NFL and Mike Brown: “Marv, sorry but you’re gonna have to apologize here.”

    Marv: “Why? For what?”

    NFL: “You said the word midget. Apparently it’s offensive as of the last few years. Plus it’s sort of part of our responsibility to help propagandize the country through our reach. So go ahead and say how you are deeply sorry or something so the libs don’t throw another temper tantrum.”

    Marv apologizes. Still not good enough for your propaganda machine. Are you proud of your job?

  80. Why should Lewis apologize. wth is this world coming to? Oh btw Brees is 6 feet tall and look at his stats….the league needs to get over its self!

  81. Lewis has apologized again, specifically to “little people”. He made an effort to educate himself, and I think the second apology was really sincere. He didn’t know the term was offensive. I didn’t either, at least, depending on how it was used. A lot of people have had the opportunity to learn from this, which is a good thing.

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