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A Pennsylvania volunteer fire chief is under fire for hurling a racial epithet at Steelers coach Mike Tomlin after his team chose to stay in the locker room during the national anthem on Sunday.
Fire Chief Paul Smith, who leads Cecil Township Volunteer Fire Station #2, made a post on Facebook stating that Tomlin “just added himself to the list of no-good n*****s” after the team’s game on Sunday. Smith’s comment crossed the line for many fellow firefighters and residents of the small community near Pittsburgh.
According to KDKA, Pittsburgh’s local CBS affiliate, one resident named Dylan Pareso said he was “completely upset” by the fire chief’s comment, finding it “disrespectful.” Mary Plumley told the channel, “For a fire chief or for anybody like that to say something like that is wrong. They don’t need to be in that position.”
Smith apologized when reached by local station WXPI for comment, although he did not apologize to Tomlin.
“I am embarrassed at this. I want to apologize. I was frustrated and angry at the Steelers [for] not standing the anthem. This had nothing to do with my Fire Department. I regret what I said. My fire department should have never been dragged into this. It was a bad judgement by me, for which I am very embarrassed, for them and my township.”
As commenters weighed in online, many said they wouldn’t be quick to forgive the racist remarks.
The Cecil Township Board of Supervisors issued a statement to WPXI against Smith’s comments.
“The Cecil Township Board of Supervisors is deeply disturbed by the comments made by Volunteer Chief Smith, and in no way, shape or form condone his comments. In that the volunteer fire departments are independent entities, the board suggests contacting the president of the Muse Fire Department regarding any further comment or action.”
In an interview with NFL.com after the game, Tomlin told the network that the decision to stay in the locker room came down to the players who “were planning to take part in a unification meeting in the locker room before the game.” Tomlin left the decision up to the players to decide amongst themselves.
After the game, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told ESPN that the team’s decision was a unified one. More than 200 NFL players defiantly protested during the national anthem on Sunday following derogatory comments President Donald Trump made during the weekend according the New York Post.
The Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans are two other teams that stayed in their locker rooms during the national anthem in protest. Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney issued a statement in support of his team’s protest from the Steelers’ official Twitter account.
The Cecil Township manager has not released a statement regarding Smith’s comments nor has Smith been fired from his position, although one township supervisor said he should be removed.
Danielle Ransom is a journalist who has worked as a researcher for CNN, NBC's KXAN-TV, CBS' KEYE-TV.