Saban says use of slur was taken out of context

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- As an audiotape spread on the Internet, Alabama coach Nick Saban acknowledged Wednesday using a phrase considered derogatory to Cajuns but said he doesn't condone such language and merely was repeating something a friend told him.

Saban, a former LSU and Miami Dolphins coach, used an ethnic slur Jan. 3 while telling Florida reporters in Tuscaloosa an anecdote about an LSU fan's angry reaction to his hiring.

When asked about the LSU fans' reaction, Saban related a phone call from a friend on the LSU board of trustees, whom he did not name. In what seemed to be an attempt at humor, Saban told of the friend's encounter with an LSU fan, who speaks in a Cajun dialect.

"He was walking down the street yesterday before the Sugar Bowl," Saban said on the taped comments. "He calls me. There was a guy working in the ditch, one of those coonass guys that talk funny.

"I can't talk like them, but he can. Most people in Louisiana can."

Continuing to tell the story, Saban then quoted the worker's vulgar comment about Saban going to Alabama.

Saban, in a statement Wednesday, said the word "can be taken as derogatory by some people."

"Those comments need to be placed in the proper context, so as to understand the meaning of what was said," Saban said. "The words were used in paraphrasing a story told to me by a friend. I was simply using the same wording used by the person who told me the story.

"The term in question is not language that I use or condone, and I can understand how some would take offense. However, I think it must be noted that those comments were made 'off the record' and the words merely reflected an anecdote that was told to me using that language."

Warren Perrin, president of the Council for Development of French in Louisiana, said the term is "highly offensive."

"I routinely state that the use of that term is highly offensive to descendants of Acadians, who are commonly referred to as Cajuns," Perrin said.

Alabama spokeswoman Deborah Lane said the university had no comment beyond Saban's statement.