This past Sunday, Bob Lamey, known as “The Voice of the Colts,” abruptly announced his retirement.
He was lauded for a long and storied career by the organization, including Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay, who called him a ”legend and an icon.”
But, within hours of the announcement, NUVO learned of accusations by an Emmis Communications employee that Lamey had used the n-word last week at Colts Camp in Westfield.
After a radio broadcast, Lamey asked if the mics were down, and then proceeded to tell a story about a racing announcer decades ago who used “n-----” on air. This occurred in front of multiple witnesses, including the Emmis employee.
The employee, who is Black, said she objected to Lamey’s use of the word immediately. He apologized, but defended himsef, saying Black people use the word all the time.
”I’m Black, and I don’t use the word,” she told Lamey. He then apologized and repeatedly asked her to keep the incident between the two of them.
The employee reported it the next day to Emmis human resources. As she stated in her complaint, it was not the first time she has encountered the use of the word in the course of her job.
Emmis then informed the Colts of what happened. The Colts responded by asking the employee to provide more information about the incident, which she did. That was Friday. Lamey’s retirement was announced on Sunday.
“It is the Colts’ long-standing policy not to discuss internal personnel matters,” Steve Campbell, Vice President of Communications for the Colts, told NUVO on Monday when we asked if the incident played any role in Lamey’s sudden departure. “You should feel free to speak with Bob about his retirement.”
On Tuesday, NUVO shared the story with WTHR. Jennie Runevitch's interview with the Emmis employee aired as breaking news that evening.
Though he initially denied the incident occurred, Lamey's attorney, Jim Voyles, released the following statement to WTHR following their broadcast, acknowledging Lamey’s use of the word as an “error in judgement.”
Bob Lamey, the former "Voice of the Colts," retired from the Indianapolis Colts on Aug. 18 following a career that spanned over four decades. Bob was not fired by the Colts as some in the community have speculated.
Bob has been in the sports broadcasting arena for almost 44 years and is 80 years old.
It should be noted that Bob does want to acknowledge that while repeating a story while off-the-air last week to a friend at a local radio station, he used an inappropriate word that had been used in the story. Bob immediately apologized to the people involved for the comment and would hope that this error in judgment would not tarnish his long-held reputation in the sports community where he has been known as an accurate and passionate reporter.
By Wednesday morning, the Colts organization was acknowledging that Lamey's word choice led to his departure. Initially, their statement said Lamey resigned, rather than retired. But they later claimed that was an autocorrect mistake.
In regards to Bob Lamey…first and foremost, the Colts deplore and do not tolerate the use of any racial slur – in any context.
While it is the Colts’ strict and long-standing policy to not make public comment on personnel matters, Bob publicly acknowledged that last week he repeated an inappropriate word when telling a story. He immediately apologized to the people who heard him use the word, and then promptly retired as the Colts play-by-play announcer.
Bob has had a long and storied history in our community, but he made a serious mistake. The Colts are deeply disappointed the incident took place and offer our sincerest regrets to all who were impacted by Bob’s lapse in judgement.
Lamey has weathered controversies in the past over language he used while on air.
During the Colts' 38 to 34 win over the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game Jan. 21, 2007, Lamey was at the mic near the start of the fourth quarter as the Colts lined up for second and goal. Quarterback Peyton Manning handed the ball off to running back Dominic Rhodes who lost control. Before center Jeff Saturday's offensive fumble recovery in the end zone resulted in the Colts tying the game at 28, Lamey vented his frustration.
“He fumbled the freaking football,” he said.
Sept. 25, 2016, Lamey once again found himself in the news after the Colts beat the San Diego Chargers 26 to 22. He was broadcasting on WFNI, “1070 The Fan,” which is owned by Emmis.
“It's finally fucking over,” Lamey said, of the game.
After that incident the Colts released the following statement:
Bob Lamey is not only a legendary broadcaster, but also a passionate and loyal Colts fan. Nevertheless, even in the heat of the moment, profanity has no place in Colts broadcasting. Bob has expressed extreme regret for his mistake during yesterday’s broadcast. We have accepted his sincere apology, and forgiven him for his misstep. We hope our fans will do the same and enjoy ‘The Voice of the Colts’ for many more broadcasts.
Lamey worked 31 seasons as the club’s radio play-by-play voice, serving from 1984 to 1991 and again from 1995 to 2018. He previously worked as the official play-by-play voice of the Indianapolis Racers hockey team from 1974 to 1977 and the Indiana Pacers from 1977 to 1984.
He also worked 23 years for WIBC Radio in Indianapolis, the last 15 as sports director. Lamey was inducted to the Indiana Sports Broadcasters and Writers Hall of Fame in 2008.
With Lamey gone, Matt Taylor, Colts radio host and preseason sideline reporter, will handle play-by-play duties. Taylor has been the manager of radio production with the Colts since 2012, handling all aspects of Colts radio programs and the One America Radio Network. Taylor also has been the teams' radio gameday sideline reporter and pre-game show host since 2013.
*Editor's note: This story was updated from the original version to include the statement by the Indianapolis Colts on Wednesday, Aug. 22.