Celebrity chef Paula Deen, who saw her cooking empire collapse after acknowledging that she used the N-word in the past — is under fire for how she worded a comparison of her struggle for a comeback to that of NFL prospect Michael Sam.
“It’s like that black football player who recently came out,” Deen told People, according to USA Today.
“He said, ‘I just want to be known as a football player. I don’t want to be known as a gay football player.’ I know exactly what he’s saying.”
Much of the criticism about Deen’s comment in the article, which comes out Friday, is over her use of the phrase “that black football player” to refer to Sam, who publicly acknowledged he is gay earlier this month.
Deen’s admission last summer of using the N-word resulted in lost endorsements and her getting kicked off the Food Network. She said at the time she never used the N-word except for one moment 30 years ago when she went through an attempted robbery “with a gun to my head.”
Najafi Cos., based in Phoenix, was speaking with “TV networks, retail chains and other possible partners,” a Paula Deen Ventures representative said, though not the Food Network.
“I’m fighting to get my name back,” Deen told People. “I feel like ‘embattled’ or ‘disgraced’ will always follow my name.” Deen also reflected on the power that words improperly used can wield.
“I have been hurt by them, and I unintentionally hurt others,” Deen said. “But I don’t want that to define who I am.”