Former Indycar Driver, Derek Daly, Fired by WISH-TV. Willy T Ribbs Speaks Out on Daly's Behalf

Derek Daly in attendance at Willy T. Ribbs wedding, last weekend in Las Vegas.

INDIANAPOLIS - RIS - AUGUST 24, 2018 - Former Indycar driver, Derek Daly in a statement late yesterday to RIS, said the incident leading up to his dismissal as an analyst from WISH-TV in Indianapolis, stemmed from a chat he had as a rookie driver at the Indy 500 in 1983.

“I used a common saying in Ireland, (and in the USA at that time) ‘I am the (n-word) in the wood pile,’ to describe that  I was the unknown on the team. We had experienced crew and engineers, so I was the variable. Robbin Miller heard my use of the word and told me that was offensive in the States. I have never use that word since.”

The origin of the phrase “(N-word) in the wood pile”, does indeed date back to the late 19th century, and has the meaning "some fact of considerable importance that is not disclosed—something suspicious or wrong.”

RIS/Larry Clarino

Willy T Speaks On the Derek Daly Controversy

By Mark Dill,

MDE, Inc.

Yesterday’s news that retired Formula One and IndyCar veteran driver Derek Daly was dismissed from his role as motorsports analyst for WISH, an Indianapolis television station, shocked the media community in the Hoosier capital. The action stemmed from allegations that Daly used a racial slur during a radio interview 35 years ago.

Willy T. Ribbs, the first black driver in history to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, is having none of it. Ribbs insists that Daly is a genuine human being and has never exhibited a hint of racial prejudice in their 41-year friendship. In fact, Ribbs found Daly the most welcoming and helpful European driver he encountered when he traveled to England in 1977 to eventually win the British Formula Ford championship.

“Derek Daly was the first driver to befriend me in an environment I knew little about. We renewed our friendship when he came to race in America in the early 1980’s. In 1984 we visited our hero Muhammad Ali at his home in Los Angeles and The Champ loved him. Later that same night we were attacked in a parking lot by some thugs that looked like skinheads and we kicked the shit out of them.”

Daly, who raced in the Indianapolis 500 six times, was instrumental in helping Ribbs break into the sport. He helped Willy land his first Indy car ride with Raynor Racing in 1990.

“On August 18th, 2018, one of my closest friends in a sport that at times was very hostile to me was at my wedding 41 years after we met in the U.K. That’s the Derek Daly I know.”

Here is Daly's full statement: 

Last night WISH-TV severed ties with me after former sports broadcaster Bob Lamey apparently inaccurately attributed a racial slur to me during an interview in the early 80’s. It was reported on their web site that I confirmed this. Both of these reports are factually incorrect. On this subject, I was never interviewed by Bob Lamey. The slanderous statements made by Bob, and now being attributed to me, are not only factually incorrect, but offensive. 

The facts are: In the early 80’s, after I had recently relocated to the United States, I was interviewed by radio reporter Larry Henry and I was asked about my situation with my new American team. I responded by explaining that I was a foreign driver now in America, driving for an American team, with an American crew, and with an American sponsor – and that if things did not go well, the only “n***** in the wood pile” would be me. At the time, I meant that I, as the new foreigner on the team, would shoulder the blame and I would be the scapegoat. This was not in any way shape or form meant to be a racial slur. This phrase was commonly used in Ireland, Britain, and Australia. 

When I used that phrase in the early 80’s, I had no idea that in this country that phrase had a horribly different meaning and connotation, as it was commonplace in Ireland. After moving to the United States, I quickly learned what a derogatory term it was. When I was first informed of this, I was mortified at the offense I might have caused people. I have therefore never used the word since. I made this mistake once, but never again. As someone lucky enough to travel and work around the world, I have good friends and colleagues from almost every race, nationality, and religion. I have always treated everybody with equal respect and they have done the same with me. 

Anyone who questions that should talk to them. Similarly, I hope I have demonstrated my character during the past 20 years that I have spent working on television with a range of professionals of all backgrounds. Finally, I want everyone to know I deeply regret and sincerely apologize for what I said more than three decades ago. 

Respectfully, Derek Daly

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Volume 2018, Issue 8, Posted 10:06 AM, 08.24.2018