The ESPN editor fired Sunday for using "chink in the armor" in a headline about Knicks phenom Jeremy Lin said the racial slur never crossed his mind - and he was devastated when he realized his mistake.
"This had nothing to do with me being cute or punny," Anthony Federico told the Daily News.
"I'm so sorry that I offended people. I'm so sorry if I offended Jeremy."
The headline - "Chink in the Armor: Jeremy Lin's 9 Turnovers Cost Knicks in Streak-stopping Loss to Hornets" - appeared on ESPN's mobile website at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday and was removed by 3:05 a.m.
Battling to contain a furor, the sports network fired Federico and suspended anchor Max Bretos for 30 days because it turned out he had used the same expression on the air last week. ESPN offered profuse mea culpas and promised to be "better in the future."
Federico, 28, said he understands why he was axed. "ESPN did what they had to do," he said.