Late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel has apologized for joking that Detroit Pistons fans would burn down the city if their basketball team beats the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.
The comment, made by Kimmel in a promotional spot for his ABC show during the network’s Tuesday night halftime telecast, riled Detroit fans and executives at ABC’s Detroit affiliate, WXYZ-TV.
After getting wind that the comedian planned more jokes at Detroit’s expense for his Wednesday night segment of “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” the station decided to carry a broadcast of “The Wayne Brady Show” in its place.
The Walt Disney Co.-owned network followed suit, running a repeat of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” instead of the segment that had been taped for Wednesday.
“We made the decision that we felt was in the best interest of the show,” ABC said in a terse statement. Network officials declined further comment, except to say that Kimmel would return to the airwaves as scheduled Thursday.
Appearing during the halftime presentation for Game 2 of the NBA finals, which the Lakers won 99-91 in overtime, Kimmel said, “I’m glad the Lakers are winning because besides the fact that I’m a Lakers fan, I realize they’re gonna burn the city of Detroit down if the Pistons win, and it’s not worth it.”
Issuing an apology on Wednesday, Kimmel said, “What I said about Pistons fans during halftime last night was a joke, nothing more. If I offended anyone I am sorry. Clearly over the past 10 years, we in L.A. have taken a commanding lead in post-game riots. If the Lakers win, I hope to overturn my own car.”
Four years ago, scores of people rampaged through downtown Los Angeles, overturning cars, setting fires and clashing with police, following the Lakers’ 2000 NBA championship.
Detroit, too, has had a history of riotous celebrations following victories by its local sports teams, including the 1984 World Series victory by the Detroit Tigers. Local officials also have fought for years against a tradition of Halloween-eve “Devil’s Night” arson fires.
Assuming a somewhat more sober tone on Thursday, Kimmel added: “When you’re 2,000 miles away from a city you’ve never lived in, it’s hard to understand the sadness people feel from something that happened in their town — even if it happened many years ago.
“It was never my intention to cause anyone pain. I was trying to make a joke and I’m sorry it resulted in anything other than laughter.”