SBD/15/Sports Media

BEN WRIGHT II: LPGA'S MECHEM ANGRY WITH LESBIAN ISSUE

     On Friday and Saturday, LPGA Commissioner Charles Mechem
withheld judgment on Ben Wright.  Mechem, on Friday:  "If he did
not make the alleged remarks, as he stoutly maintains ... it
would be terribly unfair and prematurely judgmental for us to
insist that he be replaced" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 5/13).  But
Mechem did fire "an emotional -- indeed an angry -- fusillade at
the central tenet of the News Journal's story:  that the
incidence of lesbianism in women's professional golf has damaged
the LPGA's appeal," according to Vic Dorr of the RICHMOND TIMES-
DISPATCH.   Mechem:  "Here we are, sitting in here on this
beautiful day when the best women's golfers in the world are out
there on course.  Why aren't we out there watching them and
enjoying them?  Because we're in here dealing with this absurd
and ugly charge that lesbianism is stunting the growth of the
LPGA Tour."  Mechem said he has "never" had a potential sponsor
cite lesbianism as a reason for not backing the LPGA (RICHMOND
TIMES-DISPATCH, 5/14).  Mechem, noting that 30 sponsors have
signed on in the past five years:  "This is incredibly overblown"
(AD AGE, 5/15 issue).
     IT WILL HURT:  Burns Celebrity Sports Service President
David Burns:  "It will definitely hurt the game, hurt the sport,
because a lot of latant bigots, the top gray-haired decision-
makers, will have some reason now not to invest their money in
this sport" (N.Y. NEWSDAY, 5/13).
     IT MAY HELP:  In New York, Ira Berkow writes, "If it is true
that corporations discriminate against the LPGA because of
perceived lesbianism, then these pillars of the business
community should be held accountable.  And Ben Wright will have
made a contribution to society, even if it would have been an
inadvertent one on his part" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/13).
     OTHER VIEWS:  In New York, Phil Mushnick, noting that the
LPGA promotes "everything straight and feminine," writes that
Wright's alleged comments "verbalized a mindset established by
the LPGA; a mindset that establishes lesbianism, which is
irrelevant to the game of golf, as bad for the business of golf"
(N.Y. POST, 5/15).  In Baltimore, John Eisenberg writes that
recent news reports show that "the private lives of men are a lot
more sordid than the private lives of women in sports" (Baltimore
SUN, 5/13).  Women's Sports Foundation Exec Dir Donna Lopiano, in
a statement released Friday:  "Sexual preference and sexuality
have nothing to do with a person's performance as an athlete or
professional in any field" (Women's Sports Foundation).
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