Sandro Grande, the recently hired — then fired — reserve coach of Montreal's professional soccer team, issued a tearful apology on Thursday for the anti-sovereignist tweets from a decade ago that sparked outrage and lost him his job.
"What I wrote in 2012 was unacceptable," Grande said, sometimes through tears, at a news conference.
"These words are not part of my values as a husband, son and especially as a father to two wonderful children who had to go through extremely difficult times — along with my wife — after the events of last week."
On Jan. 10, Quebec politicians universally condemned Grande's hiring as coach of the reserve team for CF Montreal because of tweets in his past which disparaged Quebec sovereignists — those who would like to see Quebec become its own country. Later that same day, the team announced it had cancelled its contract with Grande.
On Thursday, Grande accepted responsibility for the first time for tweeting about the Sept. 4, 2012, shooting at the Parti Québécois victory celebration at the Métropolis Theatre in Montreal, where Pauline Marois was celebrating her party's win.
WATCH | Sandro Grande gets emotional during press conference :
"The only mistake the shooter made last night was missing his target! Marois!!! Next time, buddy! I hope!" Grande tweeted at the time. He later denied writing the tweet, however, and said his account had been hacked.
"I denied it, but it was me who did it," Grande said. "It was a stupid comment, a comment that doesn't align with my values. I was just embarrassed by what I wrote and I didn't know what else to do."
Since the backlash to his hiring, Grande said he sent a letter to Pauline Marois apologizing for the tweet and she wrote back with a "touching" response. He said he would meet with current PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon in the coming days.
St-Pierre Plamondon confirmed on Twitter that he planned to meet with Grande on Sunday.
"We welcome the fact that Mr. Grande acknowledges and takes full responsibility for his remarks in 2012, in addition to having written a letter of apology to Ms. Marois," St-Pierre Plamondon said. "We recognize the sincerity of his approach. I will keep you informed of developments following this meeting."
Grande said he has no plans for the future aside from focusing on his and his family's well-being. They have been threatened, he said, and his children have been "receiving comments" at school.
He said he respects sovereignists.
"I think that everyone has a right to a belief and I respect the beliefs of everyone," he said. "I have a lot of family and friends who are sovereignists and I respect them. I love them without conditions."
Grande is a former professional soccer player who was on the Montreal Impact, now CF Montreal, for the 2008–2009 season. He has since coached soccer in the Montreal-area.