SBD/3/Sports Society

ESPN TOWN MEETING: "SPORTS IN BLACK AND WHITE"

          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).

Return to top
Video Powered By - Castfire CMS Powered By - Sitecore

Report a Bug