Virginia Senate candidate George F. Allen (R) apologized late Wednesday to an African-American reporter for asking him "what position did you play?"

Democrats seized on the apology. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee blasted out the story in an email with the subject line "Awkward George Allen apology — the first of many."

The incident began Tuesday, when Craig Melvin, a correspondent for a local NBC affiliate, tweeted

For the 2nd time in 5 months, fmr. gov. and sen candidate George Allen asks me,"what position did you play?" I did not a play a sport.

Allen, a former governor and senator, tweeted back late Wednesday:

.@craigmelvin sorry if I offended, ask people a lot if they played sports Grew up in football family found sports banter good way to connect

Melvin acknowledged the tweet.

Allen found himself in hot water during his 2006 reelection campaign, when he used the racial slur "macaca" against an Indian-American volunteer for his opponent, now-Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.).

The former senator said at the time that he did not know the word was racially insensitive, but the incident helped doom his campaign.

Dan Allen, a senior adviser to George Allen, pointed out that a Ryan Nobles, a white news anchor from Richmond, Va. tweeted:

I think it's worth pointing out that @GeorgeAllenva often asks me what position I played in sports as well.

"He learned early on that engaging in sports banter is a good way to connect with people," the adviser said of the candidate, who is the son of former Redskins coach George H. Allen. "He doesn't single out any single person.

"The Democrats are trying to make hay out of this instead of focusing on the issues," Dan Allen continued. "They are going to try to play up and distort stuff that goes on."

—This post was updated at 1:16 p.m.