SBD/15/Sports Society

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).  
          
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