SBD/15/Sports Society

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).

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