ESPN host Colin Cowherd suggested on his nationally syndicated radio show on Tuesday that the Indiana Pacers have low attendance at their home games because Indiana fans are racist.
"You're holding an organization to a standard that happens because of race. There's no other explanation why people don't go to Pacers games," Cowherd said. "The Pacers are fantastic, have been for several years, nobody goes to the games."
Cowherd added that race had to be the only explanation because Pacers tickets are "reasonably priced," the "team is outstanding," and the "locker room is full of good guys."
"Nobody's saying everybody in Indianapolis is racist. Nobody is saying Indianapolis won't support African-American athletes," Cowherd said. "What we're saying is Indianapolis punishes the Pacers more than they punish the Colts for indiscretions off the field or off the court, and a lot of that is racial."
According to RTV6 in Indianapolis, Cowherd cited postings from Pacers fans on his Facebook page calling some of Indiana's basketball players "thugs."
According to ESPN, the Pacers "are averaging 14,433 people at home games in 2013, 27th out of 30 teams in the league" and, in 2012, "the Pacers were next-to-last in home attendance, with an average of 14,168 at home games."
The Pacers, in a statement on Wednesday, said, "that's one person's opinion we don't agree with."
"We are grateful to those who have supported us so far this season and over the years and we expect the support to grow as the season goes on. This is a great sports town, as evidenced by the great crowds we had during the playoffs last season and many times this season," the team said. "The Pacers are a very good team with a very good group of players, on and off the court, who are very proud representatives of the city and the state."
UPDATE: Cowherd was claiming that Pacer fans are still penalizing the team for the 2004 brawl in Detroit when former Indiana players Stephen Jackson and Ron Artest infamously fought with Detroit fans in the stands. In response, Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz wrote that Cowherd, watching "afar from Bristol, Conn.," does not get that that it takes years to rebuild a season ticket base after the Pacers traded away their top talent in the middle of the last decade.
This team drew great crowds when Reggie Miller, Mark Jackson and Antonio and Dale Davis were battling the Knicks and the Bulls. The team drew well in the early 2000s with Jermaine O'Neal and Co., and the big crowds continued to support the Pacers even after all hell broke loose in Auburn Hills, Mich., on Nov. 19, 2004.