INDIANAPOLIS - ESPN sports talk host Colin Cowherd said Tuesday that race is to blame for low attendance figures for the Indiana Pacers.
The Pacers, 32-21 on the season, have been at or near the bottom of NBA attendance figures for several years as the team's on-court performance languished.
Now that the team's performance has rebounded, Cowherd said on his nationally syndicated show that there is no excuse for lagging attendance figures.
"You're holding an organization to a standard that happens because of race. There's no other explanation why people don't go to Pacers games," Cowherd said.
According to attendance figures compiled by ESPN, the Pacers are averaging 14,433 people at home games in 2013, 27th out of 30 teams in the league.
In 2012, the data compiled by ESPN showed the Pacers were next-to-last in home attendance, with an average of 14,168 at home games.
"Nobody's saying everybody in Indianapolis is racist. Nobody is saying Indianapolis won't support African-American athletes," Cowherd said. "What we're saying is Indianapolis punishes the Pacers more than they punish the Colts for indiscretions off the field or off the court, and a lot of that is racial."
Cowherd said there's no excuse for poor attendance figures.
"The Pacers are fantastic, have been for several years, nobody goes to the games," Cowherd said. "Your tickets are reasonably priced. Your team is outstanding. The locker room is full of good guys."
Cowherd referred to postings on the Facebook wall of WTHR referring to Pacers players as "thugs" as evidence to back his contention.
The Pacers responded to Cowherd's comments with the following statement:
"That’s one person’s opinion we don't agree with. We are grateful to those who have supported us so far this season and over the years and we expect the support to grow as the season goes on. This is a great sports town, as evidenced by the great crowds we had during the playoffs last season and many times this season. The Pacers are a very good team with a very good group of players, on and off the court, who are very proud representatives of the city and the state. That was pointed out many times from a national media perspective over the recent All-Star weekend. We look forward to seeing our great fans here at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.”