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Denver sportswriter out of job after tweet about Japanese Indy 500 driver

DENVER -- A veteran sportswriter left the Denver Post on Monday after he said he was unsettled by a Japanese driver's victory in the Indianapolis 500 over the Memorial Day weekend, when the United States honors its war dead, including those killed by Japanese forces in World War II.

Terry Frei triggered a firestorm of criticism with his remark, sent over Twitter after Takuma Sato became the first Japanese driver to win the Formula One motor race. Sato beat 32 other competitors in the prestigious event staged at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, known as the Brickyard.

"Nothing specifically personal, but I am very uncomfortable with a Japanese driver winning the Indianapolis 500 during Memorial Day weekend," Frei tweeted on Sunday.

Social media reaction to the post prompted Frei to issue an apology later on Sunday.

SEE MORE: Inside this year's race

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Indy 500 2017
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Indy 500 2017
May 29, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Verizon IndyCar Series driver Takuma Sato talks to car owner Michael Andretti after winning the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
May 29, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Verizon IndyCar Series driver Takuma Sato holds up a Japanese flag after winning the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
May 29, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Verizon IndyCar Series driver Takuma Sato and his team kiss the bricks after winning the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
May 16, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Verizon IndyCar Series driver Fernando Alonso watches from the pits during practice for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
May 18, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Four time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears watches from the pits during practice for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
May 16, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Verizon IndyCar Series driver Fernando Alonso drives across the yard of bricks during practice for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
FILE PHOTO: Verizon IndyCar Series driver Fernando Alonso gets in the car during practice for the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana, May 15, 2017. Photo taken May 15, 2017. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo
May 17, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Verizon IndyCar Series driver Fernando Alonso talks with Gil de Ferran during practice for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
May 19, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Verizon IndyCar Series driver Simon Pagenaud sits in his car during practice for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
May 19, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Verizon IndyCar Series driver Marco Andretti sits in his car during practice for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
May 20, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Gil de Ferran, left, shakes hands with Fernando Alonso as he waits in line during qualifying for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
May 29, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Verizon IndyCar Series driver Takuma Sato and his team kiss the bricks after winning the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
May 28, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; James Hincliffe takes a photo of Tony Kanaan before the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
May 26, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Verizon IndyCar Series driver Fernando Alonso pulls in for a pit stop during Carb Day for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
May 28, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; IndyCar Series driver Takuma Sato dumps milk on himself as he celebrates after winning the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
May 21, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Verizon IndyCar Series driver Scott Dixon poses accepts a $100,000 check after winning the pole for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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"I apologize to Takuma Sato," he wrote. "I made a stupid reference, during an emotional weekend, to one of the nations that we fought in World War II – and in this case, the specific one my father fought against."

Frei is the author of "Third Down and a War to Go," which chronicled the University of Wisconsin's 1942 football squad. The team included his father, who fought against the Japanese in the war after the season.

The United States entered the war in 1941 after a Japanese naval force attacked the U.S. naval fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

Late Monday morning the Post's publisher, Mac Tully, and editor Lee Ann Colacioppo issued a joint statement on the newspaper's website saying Frei was out. It did not indicate whether he was fired or resigned.

"We apologize for the disrespectful and unacceptable tweet that was sent by one of our reporters," the statement said. "Terry Frei is no longer an employee of the Denver Post."

Frei did not immediately respond to an email message for comment.

After winning the race, Sato, 40, said he understood the significance of what his victory means to his country.

"This will be mega big. I cannot imagine how it's going to be," he told reporters. "Nowadays, a lot of Japanese, the fans (are) following IndyCar Series, particularly for the Indy 500."

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