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  • DID MEETING RAISE LEVEL OF DEBATE OR WAS IT STUCK IN CLICHE?

              President Clinton's participation in ESPN's Town
         Meeting last night was the second in his year-long national
         initiative on race, and in Houston, Bennett Roth writes that
         the "sometimes spirited exchanges between panelists came in
         a setting that [included] a diverse and well-behaved
         audience."  Clinton and administration officials hoped that
         the ESPN broadcast "would reach a broader audience than had
         previously been engaged in the race debate," including more
         white males (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 4/15).  In Boston, Brian
         McGrory also notes that White House officials were hoping
         last night's forum would attract more white men to its race
         crusade.  McGrory added that during the almost two-hour
         discussion, Clinton "spent most of his time as a witness to
         a flowing conversation" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/15).  In DC, John
         Harris writes that Clinton "found himself more a spectator,
         or perhaps an accommodating referee, than a participant in
         the provocative exchanges" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/15).  On the
         front-page of today's PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, Jodi Enda notes
         that Clinton "played almost a supporting role" in the
         meeting (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/15).  In Houston, George
         Flynn writes under the header, "Viewers On Broadcast: Thumbs
         Up" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 4/15).  But in Philadelphia, Rich
         Hoffman writes the night "featured a little bit of heat --
         mostly involving Brown and Thompson -- but not a whole bunch
         of light" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/15).  In addition, USA
         TODAY's Tom Weir writes that "even this illustrious panel
         that included [Clinton] essentially failed to get off the
         same old treadmill" (USA TODAY, 4/15).
              CRITICISM OF PANEL: On "World News Tonight," ABC's Jon
         Frankel reported on criticism by Hispanic leaders of ESPN's
         having only one Hispanic, Lopez, on the panel at the town
         meeting.  The National Council of La Raza's Raul Yzaguirre:
         "Our concern is not just with the fact that there's only one
         Hispanic on the panel.  Our concern is that as the process
         evolved, we were always the afterthought."  ESPN said it
         invited "two dozen Hispanic sports figures to attend, but
         all declined for various reasons" (ABC, 4/14).  
              
    

    Print | Tags: ABC, ESPN, Sports in Society, Walt Disney
  • FEW FIREWORKS FROM ESPN TOWN MEETING ON RACE AND SPORTS

              ESPN's "Outside the Lines" and subsequent Town Meeting
         on race and sports took place in Houston last night, a two-
         hour plus special called "Race & Sports: Running in Place?" 
         Panelists included President Clinton, Padres Owner John
         Moores, former Browns RB Jim Brown, Georgetown Univ. coach
         John Thompson, Olympic gold medalist Jackie-Joyner Kersee,
         Vikings coach Dennis Green, Univ. of GA AD Vince Dooley,
         49ers President Carmen Policy, ESPN baseball analyst Joe
         Morgan, Jets WR Keyshawn Johnson and NBA prospect Felipe
         Lopez.  ESPN's Bob Ley moderated.  Clinton opened by saying,
         "America, rightly or wrongly, is a sports-crazy country. 
         And we often see games as a metaphor or a symbol of what we
         are as a people.  It's important that people see in
         athletics in America that the rules are fair, that people
         get their fair chance."  Topics discussed included minority
         hiring, racial stereotypes and the lack of minority
         ownership in sports.  Excerpts from the discussion:    
              GIVING BACK? Brown stressed the impact of economics on
         the issue of race and sports and repeatedly suggested that
         African-American athletes should hire black lawyers, agents
         and managers to handle their investment dollars.  Brown: "We
         have athletes and coaches that are black that are making
         millions of dollars."  Motioning toward the panel, Brown
         said, "You have not brought that subject up.  You have not
         said to them, 'Why don't you hire black lawyers, agents and
         managers?' ... We sit up and we talk about one more black
         coach.  One more black coach is a symbolic situation." 
         Asked about Brown's comments, Georgetown's Thompson said, "I
         can't use profanity on this show."  Thompson, who is
         represented by David Falk, said that while he is "very
         sensitive" to Brown's comments, "how far do you go?  Do I
         pick a black dentist?  Do I pick a black lawyer? ... You
         know, society has caused that, I didn't cause that." 
         Thompson, noting that his teams are predominately African-
         American added, "I'm an 'Uncle Tom' to blacks and I'm a
         racist to whites."   Clinton, on Brown's comments: "What
         he's pointing out, there's still a huge opportunity gap in
         our society by race in terms of economic standing. ... If we
         want a stable society, we want large middle classes. ... If
         a group, a certain group -- within the African-American
         community, let's say -- has amassed this wealth and then has
         to reinvest it, to the extent that they can also help to
         create this larger middle class while helping themselves in
         doing something, that's a good thing" (ESPN, 4/14).
              CONNECTIONS: Addressing the issue of ownership, Brown
         added that African-Americans' "economic dollars are never
         pooled in a manner to give us that kind of power.  If you
         talk about access to a major corporation, you talk about
         Michael Jordan; you talk about Tiger Woods.  They're with
         Nike, right?  They have the ear of [Nike Chair] Phil Knight. 
         On a massive scale, from the standpoint of delivering black
         folks into any arena, what are they doing?"  Thompson, who
         sits on Nike's board, said, "Phil Knight was one of the very
         first in the history of this country to ever give blacks
         that kind of [endorsement] opportunity."  Thompson said
         African-Americans do talk about pooling their resources but
         have difficulty securing loans from banks in order to buy a
         team: "Those are relationships with people from financial
         houses which we don't have."  Joyner-Kersee also defended
         Nike and challenged Brown's statement that African-Americans
         pool resources.  With her voice rising, she said individuals
         have choices when it comes to financial decision-making:
         "That's our choice.  That's why we live in America, because
         we have [a] choice" ("Race & Sports," ESPN, 4/14).
              MINORITY HIRING: The Padres' Moores and ESPN's Morgan
         discussed minority hiring in baseball.  Moores: "One of the
         surprising things I've found in baseball is that there are a
         number of extremely qualified people who have been passed
         over for reasons I don't understand. ... That does give me
         pause, and you wonder why those things happen."  Morgan:
         "There are a lot of players who are qualified to be Major
         League managers, and they're not even interviewed when these
         job openings occur.  And that's the problem that I have. ...
         If you don't ask them the question, they can't give you the
         answer."  The 49ers' Policy acknowledged that the NFL "kind
         of got lazy," but added the league will implement a program
         to improve job training and employment opportunities for
         league personnel and coaches.  Policy: "The alarm clock's
         gone off and we now realize that there is a lack of
         opportunity that's created by a flawed process.  So we've
         got to correct the process, and we're doing it in the NFL." 
         ("Race & Sports: Running in Place?" ESPN, 4/14).
    
    

    Print | Tags: Cleveland Browns, ESPN, Minnesota Vikings, NBA, New York Jets, NFL, Nike, San Diego Padres, San Francisco 49ers, Sports in Society, Walt Disney
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