Dallas Mavericks forward Josh Howard took a first step toward repairing his damaged reputation Monday, saying he was sorry for disrespecting the national anthem.
"I'd like to say that I'm truly and really am sorry for everything that's happened in the last five months," Howard said in a statement before taking questions from reporters on the first day of Mavericks training camp. "This is not the way I carry myself, not how I want to be portrayed. I'm sorry to everybody I've offended. I'm upset with myself and the way I've acted."
In a video posted recently on YouTube, Howard was shown at a charity flag football game. As the national anthem plays in the background, Howard approaches a camera and says: "'The Star Spangled Banner' is going on right now. I don't even celebrate that [expletive]. I'm black."
The video, which was widely viewed on the Internet, prompted blistering criticisms, including some racially charged e-mails that owner Mark Cuban posted on his blog.
In his first public appearance since the video was posted, Howard said he loves his country.
"It was me joking around," he said. "Guys were out there making fun and I decided to get along in it. I wasn't using my head. I guess the valuable lesson I did learn is that words really do hurt. You're held accountable for what you say.
"That's not me. ... I went to military school. I have friends that served in the military. I know how it is to wake up and salute the flag. The national anthem every game, I have my hand over my heart."
Howard had another off-court incident during the off-season when he was arrested in July after police said he was drag racing at 94 mph in a 55 mph zone.
He said he knows that there will be some fan backlash about his troubled summer.
"I'll try to win them back," he said. "Whatever it takes me to do that, I'll do it."
Howard also was criticized last season for saying in a radio interview during a first-round playoff series against New Orleans that he occasionally smokes marijuana. Later that same series, he angered coach Avery Johnson by throwing himself a birthday party after a Game 4 loss to the Hornets.
"It was a rough summer for him, but I believe in his heart he's a good guy," teammate Dirk Nowitzki said. "He just made some bad decisions."
Howard said another mistake he made was not addressing the national anthem controversy when it first surfaced.
"I didn't do anything to correct it. I let a lot of stuff go," he said. "It wasn't me. I'm trying to move forward. This [the press conference] is the perfect opportunity. Everybody's here. There's nothing to hide. I made a mistake. I'm ready to move forward."
Rick Carlisle, who was hired as Mavericks coach after Johnson was fired following Dallas' first-round playoff exit, visited Howard at his North Carolina home during the summer. Carlisle expects a strong season from Howard.
"I know he's going to be motivated both on the floor and in terms of how he represents this franchise," Carlisle said.
Howard, who enters his sixth NBA season, averaged 19.9 points and seven rebounds last season.