KISSIMMEE, Fla. - The owner of a Central Florida umpire school apologized publicly Thursday night after they received backlash from trainees dressing up as members of the Ku Klux Klan.
Every year, employees with the Jim Evans Academy for Professional Umpiring in Kissimmee attend a company costume bowling party after training is over.
Major League Baseball cut ties with the academy immediately. In his first public interview since the incident, Jim Evans said he was regretful of the whole situation.
"I apologize I regret it sincerely," Evans said. "It was a family situation that got blown out of proportion."
It happened last month at the Orange Bowl Lanes in Kissimmee. The umpires wore white cones on their heads and their team name, "Klein's Kleaning Krew," on their shirts. They said it was a joke.
"There's nothing funny about it. I really thought we got passed stuff like that, but I guess it's still there," Deon Williams, a Kissimmee resident, said Tuesday.
The only black employee for the academy also didn't find humor in it.
Several days later, he voiced his feelings, causing Minor League Baseball officials to launch an investigation and ultimately sever ties with the academy, no longer accepting students into the professional ranks.
"It's a shame for the students, but when someone does something like that, you have to sever ties with them," Williams said.
Evans, a MLB umpire for nearly thirty years, said he takes full responsibility for what happened.
Evans said the punishment is extreme and could kill his business, which had an outstanding reputation until now.
"The costumes were in bad taste a stupid joke and we should be punished," Evans said.
Evans said he was at the bowling party, which was a private event that no students attended.
He said he didn't even realize the stunt was out of line because by the time he realized what it was the team had changed to start bowling.
Evans said no one seemed offended at the time, but four days later, he received a complaint and apologized for the behavior.
"I'm going to try to make things right. I would like to see the punishment mitigated," Evans said. "I'm a big boy I can take punishment I can take responsibility for what happened."
The employee who complained has resigned. The three umpires involved in the so-called joke were fired.
Evans said his academy hasn't received any complaints before and in no way has any issues with racial discrimination.
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