In a new HBO film, ESPN’s Suzy Kolber talks publicly for the first time about a drunken Joe Namath saying on-air he wanted to kiss her.
“I felt like, ‘uh-oh,’ Joe is in trouble here and let’s get him out of it,” says Kolber in HBO’s revealing Namath, which debuts Saturday (9 p.m. ET). “Get him off the air as quickly as possible.” Kolber says she hasn’t spoken about the incident “because I knew he wanted it to go away.”
The on-field incident happened in 2003, when Namath was among former Jets greats being honored at a Saturday night game on ESPN. Before her live interview that night, Kolber says, she “never really had a chance to chat because he wouldn’t stand still.”
Then, she says, “when we first started talking and he was slow and deliberate and in his speech, what was going through my head was, ‘Maybe it’s just really cold.’ And none of the executives in the truck were alarmed either because nobody said (to) stop. … The direction in my earpiece was, ‘keep going.’ ”
Namath, in what became a famous TV sports moment, slurred to Kolber: “I want to kiss you” — adding he “couldn’t care less” about what was happening with the Jets team.
On-air, Kolber laughed off his line, calling it “a huge compliment.”
Looking back now, she says “I think the way I felt about it at the time was that he’s a really good guy having a bad moment that happened to be captured on national television.”
And when Namath called days later to apologize “he felt humiliated. It’s a shame he has to be remembered for that moment.”
Namath, who has spoken previously about the episode, says in the HBO documentary that the episode made him realize he needed to work on his drinking problem and “I feel awful about what I exposed her to that night.”