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March 11, 2012
Before there were high fives, celebrations, dances, cheers and laughter on Selection Sunday at San Diego State's athletics center, Jamaal Franklin sat in his chair with his face buried in his shirt, wiping away tears.
Franklin had openly flipped off what appeared to be a referee at center court late in the first half of Saturday's Mountain West Tournament championship game against New Mexico, and TV cameras caught the incident.
While Franklin denied making the obscene gesture altogether after the game, on Sunday, he addressed the incident in front of teammates, fans and media members. He said he did indeed flip the bird, but said the hand motion was directed at Lobo fans spewing venom at the MW Player of the Year.
"I did give the finger out, I can't deny that," Franklin said. "I can't lie about that. A Lobo fan was bugging me the whole time calling me the N-word and talking about my family and it just got under my skin. Which I should have never let get under my skin. I chose to be a student athlete and I know that's the task I have to take. I just want to say I'm sorry - I'm going to work real hard and I'm not going to let this happen again."
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The incident took place with less than a second remaining in the half after Franklin was whistled for an offensive foul. The sophomore guard was clearly upset with the call and on his way back to the defensive end, appeared to stare down the ref and flip the finger.
Franklin said that's not what happened, however, and vehemently denied making the gesture toward the ref.
"I didn't give the finger to the ref; I would never give the finger to the ref," he said. "I'm not going to put our program and our system in that situation again and I just want to say I'm sorry."
While head coach Steve Fisher was clearly disappointed in the whole ordeal, no punishment is expected to be levied on his star player.
"We had an unfortunate inappropriate situation (Saturday) that involved Jamaal Franklin on our team where he allowed his emotions to get the better of him and he reacted to some Lobo fans in a fashion that is unacceptable," Fisher said.
Franklin finished his apology on Sunday, received a round of applause from fans and teammates, and retreated to his seat, where he remained visibly upset even after SDSU found out it would be a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
"I feel like I let this community down, this program down, and I let the school down," Franklin said. "I pretty much let my emotions get the best of me."
Franklin leads SDSU in scoring (17.1) and rebounding (8.0) this season. He is expected to be in the Aztecs' starting lineup when they take on N.C. State on Friday in the NCAA Tournament.
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