TRENTON – Senate President Richard J. Codey, in response to a protest received from UNICO National, the Italian-American service organization, today condemned the offensive and belittling remarks made against U.S. Open runner-up Rocco Mediate by NBC Sports golf analyst Johnny Miller and called on NBC to take responsibility for the derogatory comments by firing, suspending or sanctioning Miller.
“Let’s face it, if the situation had been reversed and the comments had been directed towards Tiger Woods, the public outrage would have been deafening and NBC would have taken appropriate action in a flash,” said Codey (D-Essex). “Why then, is it okay to offer up such derisive comments against someone of Italian descent? This was perhaps one of the greatest moments of Mediate’s life and it was overshadowed by someone’s ignorance. Those two professionals gave us such a great show, it’s unfortunate that it was marred by Miller’s ignorant and distracting comments.”
Codey and UNICO were referring to Miller’s on-air comments that Mediate, who is an Italian-American, “looks like the guy who cleans Tiger’s swimming pool” and “Guys with the name ‘Rocco’ don’t get on the trophy, do they?”
“Not only should NBC step up to the plate and take some responsibility, but the press in general needs to wake up. They can’t pick and choose which racial or ethnic stereotypes they’re willing to tolerate,” added Codey.
UNICO leaders, including National President Joseph Agresti, National Anti-Bias Chairman Manny Alfano and former National President Martin Picillo, echoed Codey’s sentiments and said they have been appalled by Miller’s lack of sensitivity, encouraging members to contact both Miller and NBC to voice their disappointment.
“In today’s society, no one tolerates bigotry, except when it’s directed against Italian- Americans. In fact, we’ve established a litmus test that is very simple. Any time you see a biased comment against an Italian-American, substitute someone of another race or ethnicity in that comment and see if it would be acceptable public discourse. Just treat us fairly, that’s all we’re saying,” said Manny Alfano, UNICO National Anti-Bias Chairman.
UNICO, from the Italian word for unique or one-of-a-kind, is a national Italian-American service organization founded in 1922 to engage in charitable works, support higher education, and perform patriotic deeds. Each year, UNICO Foundation and UNICO National Chapters donate approximately $1 million to various charities.