May 29, 2017 / 9:54 PM / 3 months ago

Denver sportswriter out of job after tweet about Japanese Indy 500 driver

Verizon IndyCar Series driver Takuma Sato poses with a Japanese flag a day after winning the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 (Indy 500) at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S. May 29, 2017. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

DENVER (Reuters) - A veteran sportswriter left the Denver Post on Monday after he said he was unsettled by a Japanese driver's victory in the Indianapolis 500 over the Memorial Day weekend, when the United States honours its war dead, including those killed by Japanese forces in World War II.

Terry Frei triggered a firestorm of criticism with his remark, sent over Twitter after Takuma Sato became the first Japanese driver to win the IndyCar motor race. Sato beat 32 other competitors in the prestigious event staged at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, known as the Brickyard.

“Nothing specifically personal, but I am very uncomfortable with a Japanese driver winning the Indianapolis 500 during Memorial Day weekend,” Frei tweeted on Sunday.

Social media reaction to the post prompted Frei to issue an apology later on Sunday.

“I apologise to Takuma Sato,” he wrote. “I made a stupid reference, during an emotional weekend, to one of the nations that we fought in World War II – and in this case, the specific one my father fought against.”

Frei is the author of “Third Down and a War to Go,” which chronicled the University of Wisconsin’s 1942 football squad. The team included his father, who fought against the Japanese in the war after the season.

The United States entered the war in 1941 after a Japanese naval force attacked the U.S. naval fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

Late Monday morning the Post’s publisher, Mac Tully, and editor Lee Ann Colacioppo issued a joint statement on the newspaper’s website saying Frei was out. It did not indicate whether he was fired or resigned.

“We apologise for the disrespectful and unacceptable tweet that was sent by one of our reporters,” the statement said. “Terry Frei is no longer an employee of the Denver Post.”

Frei did not immediately respond to an email message for comment.

After winning the race, Sato, 40, said he understood the significance of what his victory means to his country.

"This will be mega big. I cannot imagine how it's going to be,” he told reporters. "Nowadays, a lot of Japanese, the fans (are) following IndyCar Series, particularly for the Indy 500.”

(This story corrects type of race in second paragraph.)

Editing By Frank McGurty and David Gregorio

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