Chiefs owner Clark Hunt issued a statement Wednesday about some fans cheering when quarterback Matt Cassel went down with a concussion during Sunday's game.
"I want to make it perfectly clear: A small few who may have cheered when Matt went down do not accurately represent the best fans in the National Football League. Period," he said.
This came as offensive lineman Eric Winston on Wednesday stood by the essence of his comments after the game, other than to say he wished he had not indicated that all 70,000 fans cheered the injury.
Winston's comments after the game sparked a national discussion about civility in sports and boorish behavior by Chiefs fans.
"It's 100 percent sickening," Winston said. "I've never, ever - and I've been in some rough times on some rough teams - I've never been more embarrassed in my life to play football than at that moment right there. I get emotional about it because these guys, they work their butts off. Matt Cassel hasn't done anything to you people."
"Hey, if he's not the best quarterback, he's not the best quarterback, and that's OK, but he's a person," Winston continued, the big offensive lineman's voice slowly rising. "And he got knocked out in a game and we've got 70,000 people cheering that he got knocked out."
Good Morning America, the Today show and ESPN among other national media have featured stories and debates about the cheers. Many national media outlets have played off Winston's comments and indicated everyone in the stadium was cheering, prompting pushback by Chiefs fans who say they were cheering as Cassel made the first down, walked off or as backup Brady Quinn entered the game.
"Over the last few days, there has been a lot of talk about our fans, and I feel like it's important to set the record straight," Hunt said in his statement. "I know our fans. They are passionate, hardworking, loyal, educated football fans, and they are the heart and soul of the Arrowhead experience. They know cheering an injury to anyone in any stadium is unacceptable."
Winston apologized to Cassel on Wednesday for the unwanted attention he thrust on the quarterback. Both local and national reporters surrounded his locker room.
"If there's anything I could take back, I guess it would be, and not even take back, it would be clarify more," Winston said. "I was speaking to the people that were cheering and not to the total fanbase. You know, I realize how great our fans are here, but unfortunately our fans have taken it as I was speaking, as I was painting a broad brush... Obviously, I didn't make that clear enough and that's the one thing that I wish I would have been a little more clear about."
He said he has received a tremendous outpouring of support, which he appreciates. He said it has helped that his teammates are also standing by him.
Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel also addressed the controversy again during his news conference Wednesday. He said he had discussed the cheering with his players.
"I told them that historically the Chiefs fans are some of the best in the NFL and that the majority of them are very supportive and we appreciate the support that the Chiefs fans give us," Crennel said.
Crennel said he believes a majority of Chiefs fans felt bad about Cassel's injury.
"There were some that expressed an opinion of frustration - that I have, that everybody else has had about this season. They expressed it probably not in the way that you would want it expressed, but you can't paint the broad brush of 70,000 people because that wasn't the case," he said. "I think the majority of the Chiefs fans are not going to cheer a player getting hurt. I think the majority of the Chiefs fans support the Chiefs and they want the Chiefs to win. Are they frustrated? Yes, they're frustrated just like we're frustrated. We're trying to make it better, and I know that they show up on Sunday."
Chiefs players on Wednesday backed up Winston but also said they know Kansas City has great fans.
"Eric Winston is my teammate. I stand by and we all stand by what he said and it is what it is. I've been here for eight years," linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "I know we've got great fans, everybody wasn't involved in it. We have to get ready for Tampa Bay. It's one of those things where you don't want this to become a distraction. We need to get a win before this bye week comes up."
Center Ryan Lilja also said he supports Winston.
"Obviously it wasn't everybody in the crowd, but there were people cheering a guy getting a head injury. It's been talked about every which way possible, and I'm not going to give you anything else other than I support what Eric said. I hope Matt gets healthy. We love and respect our true Chiefs fans," he said.
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