Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson was told to stay away from the team Tuesday while the NFL and the Chiefs complete their investigation into his use of a homosexual slur twice this week.
Johnson issued an apology and a national gay rights advocacy organization called on the league and the team to take action against the two-time Pro Bowl back.
The latest chapter in Johnson’s stormy career began Sunday night when he questioned coach Todd Haley’s football credentials on his Twitter account. He used the slur during an exchange with one of his Twitter followers.
On Monday, Johnson used the slur again as he brushed off reporters and told them he would not comment, according to the Kansas City Star, which recorded the comment.
The Chiefs said they have told Johnson he would not be allowed to practice with the team or participate in team activities until the matter was resolved.
Johnson, who needs only 75 yards rushing to become the Chiefs’ all-time leader, apologized to Haley, the team, fans and the league “for the words I used.”
“I regret my actions. The words were used by me in frustration, and they were not appropriate,” he said through a spokesman. “I did not intend to offend anyone, but that is no excuse for what I said.”
Johnson also apologized to “all the kids who view athletes as role models. I was not a good role model yesterday and hopefully I can become a better role model. We all make mistakes, and the challenge is to learn from them.
“I will do my best to learn from this one as I move toward becoming a better person, teammate, and member of the Kansas City Chiefs team and community.”
Jarrett Barrios, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, called on the NFL and the Chiefs to take disciplinary action against Johnson and seize a chance to educate “on the dangers of homophobia in sports.”
Such slurs are used to “ridicule and harass young gay and transgender athletes on local sports fields across America,” Barrios said.
“Professional athletes who use this word need to be held accountable for giving a license to youth to bully their peers,” said Barrios.
Johnson, drafted in the first round out of Penn State in 2003, has had an up-and-down career in Kansas City. He was one of the best running backs in the NFL in 2005 and ’06, rushing for more than 1,700 yards in each season. This year, like the Chiefs, he has struggled, averaging only 2.7 yards per carry.
Johnson was benched for three games last year for an unspecified violation of team rules. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for the fourth game for violating the league’s player conduct policy in connection with incidents involving two women in bars.
Johnson then was sentenced to two years’ probation after pleading guilty to two counts of disturbing the peace. One woman accused him of throwing a drink on her and another said he had pushed her head at a Kansas City night spot.
Late Sunday, after the Chiefs (1-6) were routed by San Diego, a series of tweets were posted to a Twitter account the Star reported Johnson has said is his.
One read: “My father got more creditentials than most of these pro coaches.” That was followed by: “My father played for the coach from “rememeber the titans”. Our coach played golf. My father played for redskins briefley. Our coach. Nuthn.”
Haley, hired earlier this year to replace the fired Herm Edwards, did not play high school or college football and attended college on a golf scholarship.
The tweets drew responses, including one that referred to one of the nightclub incidents.
Johnson’s response include a three-letter gay slur. The final post read: “Make me regret it. Lmao. U don’t stop my checks. Lmao. So ‘tweet’ away.”