Lamar Thomas fired over Orange Bowl brawl remarks
BY BARRY JACKSON And GLENN GARVIN
Saturday's mid-game brawl between the University of Miami and Florida International University claimed its first off-the-field victim Monday when Lamar Thomas, a former Miami player who cheered the fight on from a broadcasting booth and even threatened to join it, was fired from his announcing job.
Comcast Sports Southeast fired Thomas from his job doing color commentary on Hurricanes games and will edit his fiery remarks during the brawl from a replay of the telecast Wednesday.
''We don't condone Lamar's statements,'' CSS general manager Mark Fuhrman said. ``He unfortunately got caught in the emotion of it. He blurred the line between what takes place as a participant and your role as a broadcaster.''
When the head-stomping, helmet-swinging brawl erupted during the third quarter, Thomas not only repeatedly cheered UM on, but said he wanted to join them in taking a shot at the FIU team.
''You come into our house, you should get your behind kicked,'' Thomas told viewers. ``You don't come into the Orange Bowl playing that stuff. You're across the ocean over there. You're across the city over there. You can't come over to our place talking noise like that. You'll get your butt kicked. I was about to go down the elevator and get into that thing.''
He even seemed disappointed when the referees finally got control. ''Why don't they just meet outside in the tunnel after the ball game and get it on some more?'' he urged. ``You don't come into the Orange Bowl, baby -- we've had a down couple of years -- but you don't come in here talking trash. . . .
``You come in here talking smack, it's time to get it on. We let you play in our stadium -- they play well, I gotta give it to FIU, they played well so far -- but you cross the line at some point.''
Thomas, in an interview with The Miami Herald an hour before he was fired, said no one from CSS suggested he tone it down during the telecast, and that he hadn't heard from the network since. But he seemed to clearly expect some disciplinary action.
''I'm very new to this whole media thing,'' said Thomas. ``I'm an ex-player. I love the school I was doing games for. I'm very passionate about the University of Miami. I love those kids just like my brothers. I played with my emotions on my sleeve, and I broadcast games just like that.
``Unfortunately, this thing blew up into a national event and I was caught with my pants down. If I had to do it all over again, I would be a little more tactful.''
His threat to join the fight, Thomas added, was a joke. ''Everybody who knows anything about the Orange Bowl knows it's going to take at least 40 minutes to go down the elevator from the press box,'' he said. ``I'm 36 years old, man -- what am I going to do down there? It was a joke, but people didn't take it that way. That's the way it goes.''
Eleven players from the two teams were ejected after the brawl, and the schools announced that 31 players will be suspended. Of those, FIU says that 16 will be suspended indefinitely and that two will be kicked off the team. UM's 13 suspensions are for one game.
Thomas -- a wide receiver for Miami during the early 1990s who played six seasons in the NFL, including three with the Dolphins -- was the regular color commentator on CSS' coverage of UM games, which it tapes for replay in mid-week. But Saturday's telecast also aired live as a pay-per-view game on ESPN. And excerpts containing the brawl -- and Thomas' colorful tirade -- began appearing on the Internet the next day.
UM officials were consulted about the dismissal, said Fuhrman, and ``they were supportive of the decision.''
''`We considered multiple options,'' he added. ''We felt this was the appropriate action. The comments made don't represent the beliefs'' of the network.