SANTIAGO – Former Chilean tennis star Marcelo Rios has apologized for insulting a group of reporters, saying that at the time he thought it would be amusing to emulate Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona.
“Serious mistake. It wasn’t the right time and I wasn’t being attacked, as often happens,” the 42-year-old Rios, who held the ATP No. 1 ranking for two brief stints in 1998, wrote in a letter to Chilean daily El Mercurio.
Rios, the assistant captain of Chile’s Davis Cup team, made his crass remark last Wednesday while the squad was training for its Davis Cup tie against Ecuador.
Chile won that Americas Zone Group I clash, played last Friday and Saturday, 3-1.
“As my friend Diego Armando says, you all ‘can suck it,’ because I don’t talk to reporters. Questions?” Rios said when asked about the Chilean team’s form heading into the weekend tie in Santiago.
When he was asked a second question, Rios replied, “carry on sucking it,” and then walked away.
The rude behavior made headlines in Chile, where Rios’ temperamental behavior is well known, and also led to the International Tennis Federation – which runs the Davis Cup – slapping him with a $2,500 fine.
In his letter to El Mercurio, Rios also reflected on his poor relations with the media dating back to his time as a player, blaming the problem on reporters’ “constant harassment” and “lies whose sole purpose was to sell sensationalist stories.”
Even so, he recognized that he had erred in lumping all sports journalists in the same category and having a negative opinion of each and every one.
He also admitted that his remarks last week were offensive to many.
“I’ve had time to reflect and realize that my comments offended people who are doing their job in a dignified manner and likewise also affected their families, friends and perhaps journalism students and teachers,” Rios wrote in the letter.