It all boils down to semantics. I think my main issue is that people are so hung up on what could be a derogatory statement, based on what has been used in a derogatory way in the past for certain races, ethnic groups, and cultures, that it has gotten to the point where people can say that a word or phrase is thisclose to another word and that it shouldn't be used because someone MIGHT be offended by it. Give me a break! I understand that certain words can seem offensive if it hits close to, or has a double meaning for another possibly offensive word but people really need to start using their common sense. I am not going to start watering down language, or tip toeing around simple descriptive phrases because one very small group of people might find it offensive simply because they fail to understand the REAL meaning and the context it is being used in. Yes. There are people in this world who use awful demeaning language, but expecting everyone in creation dumb to down their vocabulary because of those ignorant few is ludicrous.
Like I said before, anyone can find offense in anything really. Why on earth do we cater to it is my question? Unless the phrase or word is being used as a blatant insult, it really shouldn't cause this much drama. I wish people would stop getting so hung up on semantics. Sure there was oppression of certain cultures and some words and phrases were used to offend them. Heck, most cultures were oppressed at some point or another by some other culture. My opinion is that in today's day in age, people need to stop creating an issue where there is no issue just because of their personal feelings or what has happened in the past. It's a different time. People must realize that occasionally, you are going to come across a word or phrase that hits close to home because of past connotations. What they should do is use their brain and think about what it actually being said/written, instead of flying off the handle and crying foul.
I still cannot in any way find anything wrong with what this writer said in his article. Even with all the reasons you all have given, I still find no fault with his description of the event. His apology was a nice gesture of good will towards that community, and I applaud his attempt, but I wouldn't have faulted him if he hadn't apologized either.
FWIW, I am of Irish, English, Scottish, and Cherokee heritage. I am a Heinz 57 mix of some previously oppressed people (and cultures that people like to make jokes about) and so there is a plethora of words that I could take offense too. But I don't. Because I am not an unreasonable or easily offended person.