Greg Papa on Thursday acknowledged that Tim Ryan’s recent comments about Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson were “offensive” and the San Francisco 49ers “acted accordingly” in suspending his broadcast partner for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.
But he went on to insist Ryan’s remarks were not made with any trace of “malice or animus” and defended Ryan as a “quality, quality person.”
On Wednesday, the 49ers suspended Ryan, the team’s radio analyst, for remarks he made on Monday’s edition of KNBR’s “Murph & Mac” morning show, during which he said Jackson’s dark skin gives him an advantage on the playing field.
While describing Jackson’s ability to fake handoffs in Baltimore’s recent win over the 49ers, Ryan said, “He’s really good at that fake, Lamar Jackson, but when you consider his dark skin color with a dark football with a dark uniform, you could not see that thing.”
Papa, who is in his first season as the 49ers radio play-by-play man, addressed the controversy during his morning KNBR program that he co-hosts with John Lund.
“All I will say is that the comments were offensive because they offended people,” Papa told the KNBR audience. “And they offended a great many people. In what we do for a living, word choice is critically important, and his word choice was not on point. He’s acknowledged that and he’s going to pay a stiff penalty for it.”
Papa said that he had a “really meaningful” conversation with Ryan Wednesday night and that he “feels badly” for him.
“He does not want to distract the football team from the matter at hand,” Papa said. “… Tim is so disappointed that he’s not going to be able to work this game. But he’s more disappointed because he loves this football team and he does not want to distract their attention, our attention …”
Papa went on to praise both Ryan’s character and his work ethic.
“He’s a quality, quality person,” he said. “The organization knows that. The players in that locker room, the coaching staff (know that) … and I think they will speak on that today.
“Secondly, he’s a tremendous broadcaster,” Papa added. “He’s also extremely detailed in what he does for a living. … I think what he was saying (about Jackson) speaks to the high level of detail of what he does as a football analyst. He doesn’t watch football. He embraces and engulfs football like he’s playing on the defensive line. … How many analysts would even give you that point? Again, his word choice was off base, but the level of detail in what he was saying about the quarterback is the highest level.”
The 49ers announced Thursday that Dennis Brown will replace Ryan as the team’s radio analyst for Sunday’s game. Brown, 52, played seven seasons for the 49ers as a defensive lineman from 1990 to ’96, and was a starter on the team’s Super Bowl-winning team after the 1994 season. He has served as an analyst on KNBR’s pre- and post-game 49ers coverage the past two seasons.
Ryan’s statements about Jackson were also addressed multiple times during Thursday’s “Murph & Mac” show. At one point during the program, on-air personality Adam Copeland acknowledged that the controversy had been discussed on an hourly basis “to show that we’re not shying away from it.”