Green Bay Packers wide receiver Devin Funchess apologized early Sunday for his use of an anti-Asian slur during a news conference, saying "it was not ok."
Funchess told reporters Saturday at the team's facility in Green Bay, Wisconsin, that he could tell when they were smiling under their masks because their eyes "go c----y."
Hours later, he posted a statement to Twitter apologizing for the "disparaging remark."
"I have grown to develop deep personal and business relationships in the Asian community!" Funchess wrote."I meant no harm, and those that know me know I have love and respect for all cultures and people. I will learn from this and continue to grow as a person. I'm forever sorry!"
He added, "FTN= Forgive. The. Negativity."
While some fans were quick to forgive Funchess, others noted that it was not the role of non-Asians to accept his apology. Wisconsin state Rep. Francesca Hong tweeted that Funchess should deliver a personal apology to Lily Zhao, sports anchor for Milwaukee TV station WITI.
"In jest or in love, normalizing the use of a racial slur, especially when you have the platform as pro-athlete is never okay," Hong said. "It's disrespectful and the impact is profound. This hurts."
Before the apology, Zhao tweeted that the comment was "disappointing to see and hear from Devin Funchess."
Funchess signed with the Packers last year but opted out of last season because of Covid concerns. He has previously played with the Carolina Panthers and the Indianapolis Colts.
Funchess' remark was not the only anti-Asian incident in sports last week.
On Thursday, Italy's Juventus Women soccer club posted a photo of defender Cecilia Salvai wearing a cone on her head and pulling back her eyes in a slanted position. The image appeared to be replicating conical hats commonly worn across Southeast Asia, such as the Nón Lá worn in Vietnam.
Juventus Women deleted the tweet after fierce backlash and issued an apology, saying the club has "always been against racism and discrimination."
"We sincerely apologise that our tweet, which was not meant to cause controversy or have any racial undertones, may have offended anyone," the club said.
Both incidents come after a year of notable increases in hate incidents directed at the Asian community since the beginning of the pandemic last year. Hate crime data in the U.S. showed that while hate crimes in general decreased overall by 7 percent last year, those targeting Asian people rose by nearly 150 percent.
President Joe Biden in May signed legislation addressing anti-Asian hate crimes in May that directs the Justice Department to expedite the review of Covid-related hate crimes that were reported to law enforcement agencies.