Aurora City Councilmember Steve Sundberg imitates an Arabic individual while advertising a meal special at his bar, Legends. The bar’s Facebook page is filled with a bevy of similar videos.
Screengrab from a Facebook video.

AURORA | An Aurora lawmaker has broken his silence on recently rediscovered advertisements for his sports bar in which he imitated Mexicans, Muslims and other groups, saying the videos were a source of “humor and light heartedness” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the same time, prominent critics from Aurora and beyond have continued to denounce the videos as unacceptable and as grounds to question Sundberg’s leadership.

“In a dark Covid shut down, when businesses (were) fighting to survive, with people experiencing mental health issues, uncertainty, suicide, substance abuse, domestic violence and fear, we were able to provide through a number of videos, humor and light heartedness, which drove business and cheered people up,” Councilmember Steve Sundberg wrote in a text message.

“Made over 2 years ago, no one once expressed offense. Not any video was intended to be offensive. However, it has recently (come) to my attention that some people have found content in the videos offensive. For anyone I did offend, I apologize and I will learn from it. In light of this, I have taken down some of the videos.”

Most (though not all) of the videos in which Sundberg performs racial and ethnic stereotypes were removed from the Facebook page of Legends of Aurora Sports Grill between Tuesday and Wednesday, after Sundberg faced backlash for behavior that community leaders described as “offensive” and “racist.”

“Our now 32 year old business survived,” Sundberg concluded in his statement. “Our diverse staff has prospered since Covid and we continue to support our community generously. In my elected role, I proudly and wholeheartedly, enjoy serving all members of our diverse community when the time arises.”

In addition to performing various stereotypes in the videos, Sundberg also makes light of the idea that people would be offended by the content.

In one video, Sundberg dresses as a Viking; jokes about “raping and pillaging season coming up soon;” refers to a woman, apparently a Legends bartender, as a “bar wench;” and asks another if she wants to be his “shield maiden.” The video begins with a tongue-in-cheek “disclaimer,” warning that some may find the content offensive.

Sundberg did not reply when asked in a follow-up message whether he personally had any problem with the content of the videos that were taken down and what he felt he learned from the experience of the videos being publicized.

This is despicable, pure and simple. This is why we need an office of DEI at full strength in #AuroraCO, and why council needs mandatory DEI training. #copolitics

— Councilmember Juan Marcano (@Marcano4Aurora) December 20, 2022

Following the release of the original Sentinel story, state and local elected officials along with community organizations and civil rights groups continued to question the videos and Sundberg’s fitness for office.

Ismail Allison of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in a statement that “the message that these videos send to members of minority communities in Aurora is that they are not respected and cannot expect to be represented by this elected official.”

The organization also encouraged Sundberg to meet with leaders of the communities targeted for ridicule in the videos and offered to help set up a meeting. Sundberg wrote in a message that he would “likely talk to (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) in due time.”

I’m honestly surprised he wasn’t in black face in any of the videos. Yes, it’s that bad.

— Jessica Campbell-Swanson (@JessicaforCCD2) December 20, 2022

Anti-Defamation League Mountain States Regional Director Scott Levin also warned that the rhetoric used by Sundberg could contribute to normalizing hatred toward minority groups, saying that, while Sundberg’s speech was protected under the First Amendment, “just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should do it.”

“The so-called jokes, tropes and stereotyping are belittling and normalize hateful behavior,” Levin said. “That’s what’s going on here, and I put all this in the realm of increasingly normalizing this type of behavior. Once you accept this, it escalates and empowers people to confront minority groups and move down the path that ends in violence.”

What the actual garbage of a human on display is this?

Folks in Aurora deserve better than this.

Has he apologized yet? #COPolitics

— David Ortiz (@DavidDOrtizCO) December 21, 2022

Democratic State Rep. Mike Weissman, who represents part of Sundberg’s ward in the Colorado House of Representatives, said on Facebook and in a statement to The Sentinel that he was “shocked and disgusted” by the videos.

“This kind of thing is flatly unacceptable by anyone in public office anywhere in this country. It is especially so in Aurora, ‘the Ellis Island of the Plains,’ in the words of our former poet laureate Jovan Mays,” he said.

“To my constituents — HD36 shares a lot of territory with Ward 2, the (councilor’s) ward — I’m sorry. Your origin, your faith, your language, your ancestry, your traditional dress are not some joke. You deserve infinitely better than this. To (councilor) Sundberg — you owe this city a serious apology. Real soon.”

Rhonda Fields, a Black lawmaker who represents parts of Aurora in the Colorado Senate, said she was “disgusted” by the videos, pointing out that they were made in 2020 as the city and the country experienced unrest following the police-involved deaths of George Floyd and other unarmed Black men like Elijah McClain.

One video in which Sundberg wears a turban, brandishes a scimitar and imitates a Muslim was filmed just a few days after a chaotic protest on Interstate 225, where gunfire broke out after the driver of a Jeep attempted to ram into a crowd of demonstrators.

“There was already such a heightened sensitivity around race,” Fields said. “And that apology, ‘I’m sorry I offended you,’ is empty. That’s like saying, ‘move on.’ … I refuse to be shamed because of my heritage and background. There was nothing funny or cute about it. It was offensive and demeaning. He should step down.”

Mayor Mike Coffman issued a statement defending Sundberg from accusations of racism after the videos were made public, saying the videos were “an unfortunate attempt at humor” and were made “in poor taste” but noting that Sundberg has a Black wife and mixed-race children.

Other council conservatives — Curtis Gardner, Angela Lawson and Dustin Zvonek — did not immediately respond when contacted by The Sentinel for comment on Thursday. 

Progressive Councilmember Juan Marcano, whose ward includes Sundberg’s business, said he shared the desire of some of his constituents to see Sundberg step down but thought that was unlikely to happen.

He said the freshman lawmaker should at least agree to restore funding to the city’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which the council cut at Sundberg’s suggestion earlier this year, and that Sundberg should also agree to participate in diversity training.

“The accountability is ultimately going to come from community members,” Marcano said, mentioning how earlier this year conservatives reportedly halted an attempt to censure Councilmember Danielle Jurinsky for alleged charter violations.

“At the very least, he needs to issue a real apology,” Marcano said.

Join the Conversation


  1. I think many of the respondents are missing the point. As a white guy like Mr.Sundberg this really isn’t a partisan political issue about whether or not you are conservative, liberal, left, right, independent, etc. It’s essentially a matter of being respectful of people who don’t look like you and have their own cultures. I watch the city council meetings and Mr. Sundberg appears to have taken on the role of council comedian. Maybe this whole video misfire on his part will cause him to reassess his behavior and function in a professional manner as a public official. The residents of Ward 2 should accept nothing less.

  2. The Sentinel notes that certain persons are “Community Leaders”. My question, how does one win or get awarded with that “title”? Is it awarded if one agrees publicly with the Sentinel’s editorial slant? Does it take something more? What metrics are weighed in conferring that honor?

    1. Sure; in this case I was referring to local elected officials as well as leaders of groups like Colorado Sikhs, the Black Parents United Foundation and the Aurora NAACP, the point being that other people trust those people to advocate for and represent them, at least to an extent.

      1. If I were you Max, I’d start getting my resume updated. This paper is on its way to bankruptcy.

        There are so many ” Community Leaders” that have no affiliation to any groups except to help the city of Aurora. Then you just list leaders of minority groups. Another reason that this blog is on its way out.

        There are probably 50 or more, more important community leaders in the Aurora Chamber of Commerce than the three groups of minorities that you listed. I wonder why they never get any free publicity in your blog like the radicals of Aurora. I think we both know the answer to that, don’t we Max.

  3. I suspect this will increase his business as those who support this rhetoric will flock there in droves.

  4. Mr. Sundberg claims he wants to be funny. Last time I checked racism is not funny, it is a plague that is making our country worse and needs to be eradicated.

  5. He clearly still doesn’t get why these videos using terrible stereotypes about different nationalities and races would be offensive. I personally do not enjoy seeing women made fun of either in these videos.

  6. I reiterate my previous comment — Mr. Sundberg should resign his position on the Aurora City Council. His apology is thin gruel.

  7. Absolutely despicable!! Again, we will picket his bar (Legends) this Monday Night (no City Council Meeting due to Monday being a city holiday. Let’s force his resignation. He’s a racist and must be removed from office. His apology was like a five year old child wrote it. He doesn’t get it and he obviously isn’t mature or fit enough to serve as a City Council Member.

  8. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a simple point. I commented on the original story days ago. My comment was deemed to explicit for the local paper. Yet this comment was less offensive than many of the remarks/videos Councilman Sundberg has produced. I never argued the comment be approved, but it did prove my point. If taxpaying citizens are being held to some standards of decency and decorum while not being employed by the City, then City Council should be held to that same standard. Its plain and simple. If Council can stereotype and sexually harass staff and citizens, then I can do the same to them with no repercussion. Out the window goes the city’s request that I be polite to them. For as long as the bully majority protects the same Council Members from their bad behavior repeatedly, there will be no decorum to them from me. Since I am not employed by them, they cannot hold my employment over my head to force compliance like they do to some city staff.
    Like I said Monday, bullies are always on the Naughty List. To bully away racism and sexism by excusing it lightly is to bully those you discriminated against. So I suggest, for your lump of Coal this season, that the citizens of Aurora and beyond show you just how it feels to be jokingly insulted. Everywhere you go, I hope the People show you how it feels to be put down or treated as a joke and then be expected to walk away and pretend it’s okay. Maybe then you will not so easily excuse racism for profit, or sexual harassment in the workplace. Maybe once you are made to feel as small as your actions have made you, then You will seek to make a real apology. Until then, let me remind everyone that the Mayor’s Bike needs a new coat of paint this year. Please send all donations of Just For Men to Councilman Sundberg’s office.

  9. Steve, the more you comment or apologize, the more this rag and its commenters will twist what you say to make you sound improper. You said you are sorry for things that you need not apologize. Let it go. There will be more of this blog’s political editorials to follow. Let them go to.

    Your service to our City is and has been wonderful. Do not let this Sentinel blog and the socialists of Aurora get you down. Citizens, like myself, will work hard in the next election to eliminate the trouble makers on Council, the socialists, then you will not have to defend yourself at every turn in the road.

    It certainly appears Max Levy started this fake news for political purposes by “discovering” your advertisements, passing them on to “community members of color”, then writing a news article about their replies. KABOOM. Now we know the rest of the story. News creation of no community helpfulness, in fact, not even news.

    Soon, Steve, we will not have to deal with this Sentinel blog and its socialist political creation of news. It’s on its dying legs.

    1. This “blog” will outlive you, Dick, and the few Colorado Whig Party members still in office in our state. You’ve chosen some horrific “leaders” and your party is on its last legs. Cope and seethe harder.

      1. I’m assuming you are taking the 12/31/2023 over for the survival of this Sentinel blog?

        I am coping and bubbling up while I think of your obvious hatred of my colleagues and myself.

        Wherever did you think of “Whig Party”. Is that too some kind of insult?

  10. To me it is just acting. Was Antonio Banderas being insensitive when he played an Arab in “the 13th Warrior?

  11. It is ironic that the socialist political players were so apparently offended by Mr. Sundberg’s amateurish humor, they chose to respond with name-calling (garbage of a human) and strawman arguments (surprise he wasn’t in blackface.)

    That’s a bad look.

    I hope they’ll be happy (and you, Max) if you drive him from political office. Spoiler alert: His appointed successor will certainly be no more an ally to Coombs, Marcano, Murillo, or Medina. Maybe less.

    Perhaps bloodlust will be sated if a business fails that his father spent a lifetime building–a man currently recovering from a stroke that Mr. Sundberg has been nursing to health for a year.

    My prediction is your bullying will bring supporters out of the woodwork. They can smell your political hit job. If you are successful, though, I hope you never meet anyone from the dozens of youth/sports charities Legends is famous for supporting.

    Do you hope to alienate him from his black wife or his biracial children? I seriously doubt you will. They know the man.

    I don’t know Mr. Sundberg but I follow him on Facebook, and what I see is a principled man, a family man, and a dedicated public servant. He has apologized. You have your pound of flesh. I suspect he has learned a lesson from woke society.

    Leave him be.

  12. Let this serve as a reminder to business owners that they need to hire professionals to promote their business. Just because you think you can do it, doesn’t mean you can – and this is a great case study. Pay attention.

  13. No offense. Funny – excepto humorless holier-than-thous.
    We shall show our support by patronizing Legends.
    (Myvife is a minority member who has a sense of humor.)

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