DENVER — Alfred Williams didn’t mean for his 31-year-old accusation of Mike Gundy’s racial slur to become the latest centerpiece of the civil unrest that has been inflamed in our country the past month or so.
History became tied to current events, though, because Gundy recently wore an OAN T-shirt. OAN stands for One America News, a far-right network which has been critical of the Black Lives Matter movement.
After one of Oklahoma State’s star players spoke out against Gundy, the coach apologized for wearing the T-shirt.
But he has denied Williams’ contention from 31 years ago. Gundy, then an Oklahoma State quarterback, called Williams, the All-American outside linebacker for the undefeated Colorado Buffaloes, the N-word during a November 1989 game in Stillwater, Oklahoma, according to Williams and some of his defensive teammates.
"I was outraged yesterday because that was the first time where I saw those articles where he denied what he said," Williams told 9NEWS on Thursday. "And also, he called the University of Colorado a bunch of criminals. So, it just touched me in a different way.
"I didn’t ask for this conversation at this time. I didn’t ask to rehash an incident that happened 31 years ago. Somebody called and asked me about it. I responded to it. I would have never planned for anything like this. I’m not a sensationalist guy. This is not something I look forward to."
Williams is a popular radio sports talk host in Denver and has been for many years, first with The Fan and now with KOA radio. Gundy since 2005 has been head coach of the Oklahoma State football program.
But in 1989, Gundy was a senior quarterback for the Oklahoma State Cowboys who had a stunning 10-0 lead early against the Buffs only to get trounced, 41-17. It was a game a steaming-hot Williams didn’t finish.
"I think it was a hit or a sack or something," Williams said Thursday. "I just know he was really upset with it and he was running off the field and called me the N-word. I was like, 'What? What did he say?' He was running off the field (at halftime) and I grabbed the running back and said, 'You need to talk to your boy, man.' I remember I was mad and upset and I jumped offsides like three times (in the second-half) and coach (Bob) Simmons knew I wanted to tee off on him and he just pulled me out of the game and told me I was done for the day."
After the game, several reporters asked Williams about what made him so animated and angry. He told the media about the racial slur Gundy told him. Tim James, a Buffs’ starting safety that year, backed up his teammate.
"I heard him," James told the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph in the postgame visiting locker room. "He (Gundy) has all the ability you'd want, but in my opinion to do something like that shows no class. I was shocked when he said it.
"Sure, it's emotional out there. People are fired up and things happen. But in my opinion, there is no call for using racial terms at people. It's just not called for."
The following season of 1990, Williams won the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker and helped the CU Buffs win the co-national championship, which led to becoming a first-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1991. In all his time at CU, and his nine playing seasons in the NFL, Williams said he never encountered another incident like the one he had that November day in 1989 with Gundy.
"It was something that only happened to me one time in my entire career," Williams said. "I’ve been in some hellacious fights with offensive linemen that were out-an-out nasty. Tight ends that ... it was just part of competition, though. None of that was ever thrown my way. I had some great battles with guys that were epic. But none of that ever happened."
So how did the Williams-Gundy incident get resurrected 31 years later? Williams played the final four seasons of his NFL career with the Denver Broncos where he and tight end Shannon Sharpe helped the franchise win back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997-98. Sharpe is now a popular co-host of The Undisputed, an opinionated sports talk TV show he shares with Skip Bayless.
Gundy’s OAN controversy was topical fodder for Sharpe, who called his former teammate about what happened in 1989.
"It’s not like I brought the story up," Williams said. "The story’s been out there for 31 years. It’s not like it’s new. It wasn’t like I was looking for blood. Shannon Sharpe called me up and asked me about something and then what happened is, yesterday, 31 years after this deal happened, I saw (Gundy’s) rebuttal. Basically, he called me a liar and that’s where I had a problem because I didn’t see that 31 years ago."
What Gundy said after the game in 1989, according the Gazette Telegraph, was "It's just not true. You guys can write what you want. I did not say that. They (Buff players) talk more than anyone. Look who does the taunting after a play. Who's doing the yelling. They were calling me every name they could think of. One of them was calling my mother a (bleep)."
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Gundy also referred writers to check out a 1988 Sports Illustrated article on the Buffs’ off-field problems as a character reference.
"Somebody asked me what happened, I told him what happened. Then they got his side of the story and the story was done," Williams said. "It wasn’t like I had the Internet back then. We moved on to the next opponent and we kept playing and that story was done because we moved on to the next week."
Chad Brown, who was part of the 1989 Buffs defense and went on to have a distinguished NFL career, said he didn’t specifically hear Gundy use a racial slur, "but certainly heard it when we played Oklahoma State. Unfortunately, at that time that was a part of football. I got both ends of that -- either being called a "n-----" myself, or the one they use against white people, "a n----- lover.
"I remember Alfred being upset and I remember the conversations the day after and weeks after as well. There’s obviously trash talking on the football field. Most of it can be put in the trash-talk category and move on. But clearly that’s way, way across the line and it’s why it got the reaction that it did. Alfred was justifiably upset, as I was when I was called those things on the field.
"Understand this was not a problem limited to Oklahoma State. Of the 11 or 12 games we played a year, I would say a third of the games that kind of language was used and not just once or twice but repeatedly."
Williams pondered Thursday how his exchange with Gundy is a bigger deal now than it was 31 years ago.
"Why after all those great players I played against, and I played against a lot of great players, how come I never said that against those great players I played for or against?" Williams said. "It happened, man. It happened. The more he denies it, the longer the story lives out there.
"Here’s the trip part: I played against his brother the next year (Cale at Oklahoma) and his brother was cool as hell. I played against one brother who called me a racial slur and the very next year I played against his younger brother and he was cool."
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