Bobby Knight apologizes to Puerto Ricans for 1979 incident

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight apologized for a 1979 incident in which he assaulted a San Juan policeman in a letter to a Puerto Rican sports official revealed Tuesday.

'I feel very sorry for all the bad understandings that resulted from that incident and deeply appreciate those people like you who, whether they agree with me or not, are willing to bring this chapter to a close,' Knight said in a letter to German Rieckehoff, president of the Puerto Rico Olympic Committee.


The letter was made public Tuesday by Rieckehoff, who has urged the Commonwealth not to consider any further legal action against Knight.

Knight assaulted a San Juan policeman in a gymnasium during a practice session of the U.S. basketball team for the 1979 Pan American Games.

Knight, coaching the U.S. team, argued with a policeman about use of the gym, which was occupied by the Brazilian team at the time, and later punched the policeman.

Knight was charged with assault and summoned to appear before a judge in Puerto Rico, but left the island before a trial was held. He refused to return and Indiana officials rejected Puerto Rican requests that he be extradited to face the misdemeanor charge.


Knight was tried in absentia, found guilty and sentenced to a six-month prison term.

The incident was forgotten for several years until the U.S. Supreme Court last month overturned a law dating to the Civil War that gave governors power to reject extradition requests in many cases.

The effect of the Supreme Court ruling, in a case involving an Iowa man charged with murdering a Puerto Rican woman, caused an official of the Commonwealth Justice Department to speculate on the possible extradition of Knight.

Knight's letter was apparently in response to a letter by Rieckehoff published in the Indianapolis Star saying the issue should be dropped.

Rieckehoff said he hoped the publicity from the event would not cause adverse fan reaction to Puerto Rican athletes at this year's Pan American Games, which will be held in August in Indianapolis.

In his letter to Rieckehoff, Knight said he hoped Puerto Rican athletes are treated well by the Indiana fans.

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