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              ESPN's Town Meeting, "Sports in Black and White," was
         televised live from Howard Univ. in Washington, DC, on
         Friday, moderated by ABC's Ted Koppel.  The show followed
         ESPN's "Outside the Lines" special on the 50th anniversary
         of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier.  Town Meeting
         panelists included former MLB player and ESPN analyst Joe
         Morgan; Professor Harry Edwards, MLB legal consultant
         Clifford Alexander; the Bullets' Chris Webber; adidas USA
         Dir of Sports Sonny Vaccaro; NCAA President Gene Corrigan;
         former NFLer Jim Brown; Pats Owner Robert Kraft; and retired
         coach Gene Stallings.  Koppel moderated short, individual
         panels on MLB, basketball and football, which was followed
         by all participants featured in an open discussion. 
         Questions came from the audience. 
              MLB:  Koppel opened by saying the show had invited
         MLB's top officials, team owners and players to attend, only
         to be turned down. D'Backs Managing General Partner Jerry
         Colangelo was scheduled to attend, but a family illness
         prevented his participation.  Koppel, to Alexander: "It
         pains me to have a black lawyer to answer questions that
         should be addressed to white owners."  Alexander, on why no
         MLB owners nor Acting Commissioner Bud Selig were present:
         "I cannot answer why he is not here.  I can tell you that I
         don't see any other commissioners of major sports here
         either."  Koppel: "This is a show about Jackie Robinson and
         50 years in baseball."  Edwards: "You don't have the kind of
         representation here probably from all of the leagues because
         to some extent they are all vulnerable because of
         circumstances that we have relative to race and sport." 
         Edwards, on MLB: "Baseball is lagging behind because they
         haven't come up with a formula where it's worth their time."
              BASKETBALL: Vaccaro, on black athletes becoming
         proactive spokespeople for integration and hiring more black
         coaches:  "It's incumbent upon people like Chris [Webber]
         and Michael [Jordan] ... to take it upon themselves not just
         to address for a black audience, for a universal audience. 
         And make stands when the stand is right ... I don't think
         enough of the young kids have done this, I think Michael
         could have done an awful lot.  And I say from a company
         stand point ... that I would appreciate it more if they did
         make a stand and they just weren't lily white about
         everything."  Webber: "You say we have the power, we have
         more power maybe than our colleagues, but we don't have more
         power than the people owning the team."  Webber, on
         criticism of black athletes leaving school early to play in
         the NBA: "What we have to do is sit back and look at the
         reality of it.  They aren't black writers writing these
         stories.  They aren't black people commentating shows like
         this.  We don't have the power yet."  In the show's most
         heated moment, Webber and Stallings traded barbs about
         college players getting jobs.  Webber said coaches don't
         care if players work because they have to practice,
         Stallings replied, "You are dead wrong."  Webber: "Have you
         been on the side I'm on?  You recruit me.  You come into the
         ghetto only to recruit me." 
              HIGHLIGHTS: Brown: "The money that is in the African
         American community is enormous.  The lack of collectively
         using it is atrocious"....A black woman in the audience, an
         athlete at George Washington Univ., asked Koppel why there
         was no female representation on the panel.  Koppel's
         response, booed and jeered by the audience: "Number one,
         because the program is only so long and there is only so
         much we can cover.  And number two, because we were focusing
         on the world of professional sports as it is, not on the
         world of professional sports as perhaps it should be."
              EXCERPTS: Panelists gave closing statements and the
         following is a selection of excerpts:  Alexander: "There's
         an enormous amount to be done in this society.  It has a lot
         to do with a lot more than sports.  It doesn't happen
         without pushing and pulling."  Morgan:  "I would only like
         to say that on the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson
         breaking the color barrier, I'm a little disappointed in my
         sport that there's not a Chris Webber here from my sport
         that is now actively playing and there's not a Bob Kraft
         here from my sport."  Vaccaro:  "I'd like to wish for all
         the future athletes who become endorsers of particular
         products and become spokespeople, I would hope that they
         have to understand that they are role models."  Edwards: "We
         have to remember that sport is going to be exactly and
         precisely where society is.  And ultimately ... people get
         the kind of sports institution that they support and that
         they deserve.  Ultimately, we have to realize that the fault
         is not just in the sports institution, and most certainly,
         is not in our stars.  It is in ourselves as a society and as
         a nation" ("Sports in Black and White," ESPN, 2/28).

    Print | Tags: ABC, Anheuser Busch, Arizona Diamondbacks, ESPN, MLB, NBA, NCAA, Sports in Society, Walt Disney, Washington Nationals

              The following are reax on ESPN's special.  In St.
         Louis, Bernie Miklasz called its "fascinating, intelligent
         television" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/2).  The Newark
         STAR-LEDGER's Nat Gottlieb called the Town Meeting "a lively
         and worthwhile sports forum" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 3/2).  But
         in K.C., Jason Whitlock called the Meeting "too unfocused. 
         Too many panelists.  Too many agendas.  And way too much
         posturing" (K.C. STAR, 3/2).  In Houston, David Barron wrote
         the show "had its moments.  Unfortunately, there weren't
         many of them.  Perhaps had there been fewer participants,
         and had many of the speakers been more interested in
         substance rather than advocating their own agendas, we would
         have had a panel on which Robinson would have been proud to
         sit" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/2).  NEWSDAY's Steve Zipay added
         that Webber and Brown received the "most applause," while
         the "jeers were primarily aimed" at MLB (NEWSDAY, 3/2).  In
         L.A., Mike Penner notes the "lively, often contentious ...
         discussion was conspicuous by the absence" of MLB officials
         (L.A. TIMES, 3/3).  USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand gives ESPN
         "kudos," but adds the show was "flawed by an inability to
         ... define key issues" (USA TODAY, 3/2).

    Print | Tags: ESPN, MLB, Sports in Society, Walt Disney
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