Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones came under fire for using a derogatory term at the start of his media session to kick off the Cowboys' training camp in Oxnard, California Tuesday. Jones used an offensive term to describe someone with dwarfism, prompting condemnation from Little People of America (LPA), which has advocated for the abolition of the M-word. Jones later offered an apology.
At the start of the session with journalists, Jones spoke about the many people who worked with the Cowboys who have died in the past year. This includes Larry Lacewell, a Cowboys college and pro scout from 1991 to 2004 who died in May at age 85. Jones shared a story about attending Lacewell's memorial service in Arkansas with his son, Cowboys CEO Stephen Jones.
"Stephen [Jones] and I went over to Jonesboro and a lot of our staff, certainly our scouts, and wanted to give a big memorial to Lace," Jones said, reports the Dallas Morning-News. "Lace held court out here (in Oxnard). I'm going to get me somebody, a [M-word], to stand up there with me and dress him up like Lace and think Lace is still out here helping at practice with us. You know, we all need our props. But here it is to Lace ― really, and I'm serious about that."
There was a mix of shocked expressions and chuckles after Jones' comment. However, the LPA was not amused and called on to apologize. "M— is a term that has widely been known to be derogatory for years and should be common knowledge to anyone in the public arena, such as Jerry Jones," the organization told TMZ. "Ignorance at this point is simply not an excuse. Any use of this disparaging slur along with suggestions or insinuations that our stature exists for amusement is deplorable and inexcusable."
Jones' use of the term keeps "harmful stereotypes" alive, the LPA said. It is a phrase that "further stigmatizes people born with dwarfism are asked to educate themselves to eradicate this word," they told TMZ. "Little People of America is asking Jerry Jones to issue an apology and vow to use appropriate terminology rooted in respect and dignity going forward."
Hours later, Jones issued an apology. "Earlier today I made a reference which I understand may have been viewed as offensive. I apologize," he said in a statement to TMZ.
The LPA has been working to abolish the use of the m-word to describe people with dwarfism since 2015. The term "was never coined as the official term to identify people with dwarfism, but was created as a label used to refer to people of short stature who were on public display for curiosity and sport," the LPA's statement on its website reads. "Today, the word m- is considered a derogatory slur. The dwarfism community has voiced that they prefer to be referred to as dwarfs, little people, people of short stature or having dwarfism, or simply, and most preferably, by their given name."