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BEN WRIGHT II: LPGA'S MECHEM ANGRY WITH LESBIAN ISSUE
Published May 15, 1995
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).