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Volume 24 No. 159

Sports Media

     On Friday and Saturday, LPGA Commissioner Charles Mechem
withheld judgment on Ben Wright.  Mechem, on Friday:  "If he did
not make the alleged remarks, as he stoutly maintains ... it
would be terribly unfair and prematurely judgmental for us to
insist that he be replaced" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 5/13).  But
Mechem did fire "an emotional -- indeed an angry -- fusillade at
the central tenet of the News Journal's story:  that the
incidence of lesbianism in women's professional golf has damaged
the LPGA's appeal," according to Vic Dorr of the RICHMOND TIMES-
DISPATCH.   Mechem:  "Here we are, sitting in here on this
beautiful day when the best women's golfers in the world are out
there on course.  Why aren't we out there watching them and
enjoying them?  Because we're in here dealing with this absurd
and ugly charge that lesbianism is stunting the growth of the
LPGA Tour."  Mechem said he has "never" had a potential sponsor
cite lesbianism as a reason for not backing the LPGA (RICHMOND
TIMES-DISPATCH, 5/14).  Mechem, noting that 30 sponsors have
signed on in the past five years:  "This is incredibly overblown"
(AD AGE, 5/15 issue).
     IT WILL HURT:  Burns Celebrity Sports Service President
David Burns:  "It will definitely hurt the game, hurt the sport,
because a lot of latant bigots, the top gray-haired decision-
makers, will have some reason now not to invest their money in
this sport" (N.Y. NEWSDAY, 5/13).
     IT MAY HELP:  In New York, Ira Berkow writes, "If it is true
that corporations discriminate against the LPGA because of
perceived lesbianism, then these pillars of the business
community should be held accountable.  And Ben Wright will have
made a contribution to society, even if it would have been an
inadvertent one on his part" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/13).
     OTHER VIEWS:  In New York, Phil Mushnick, noting that the
LPGA promotes "everything straight and feminine," writes that
Wright's alleged comments "verbalized a mindset established by
the LPGA; a mindset that establishes lesbianism, which is
irrelevant to the game of golf, as bad for the business of golf"
(N.Y. POST, 5/15).  In Baltimore, John Eisenberg writes that
recent news reports show that "the private lives of men are a lot
more sordid than the private lives of women in sports" (Baltimore
SUN, 5/13).  Women's Sports Foundation Exec Dir Donna Lopiano, in
a statement released Friday:  "Sexual preference and sexuality
have nothing to do with a person's performance as an athlete or
professional in any field" (Women's Sports Foundation).

     Shaquille O'Neal has signed on to star in "Kazaam," a
feature film to be directed by Paul Michael Glaser, according to
this morning's VARIETY.  The film by Interscope Communications
will be shooting in July, after the NBA season.  O'Neal will play
a "rapping, tough-talking genie who has an Odd-Couple-like
relationship with a 12-year old boy."  This is the first picture
in a two-movie deal for O'Neal, who is scheduled to begin
production of "Shaq Fu" next summer (John Brodie, DAILY VARIETY,
5/15 issue).

     CBS golf analyst Ben Wright was back in the booth at the
McDonald's LPGA Championship after denying that he had made
statements attributed to him in Friday's Wilmington News Journal
that lesbianism has hurt the LPGA's image and that women's
"boobs" affect their swing.  CBS officials met with Wright on
Friday, and, according to Jack Craig of the BOSTON GLOBE, "the
network accepted Wright's word on the matter and also criticized
the newspaper."  CBS Sports President David Kenin defended Wright
saying that he "has been done a grave injustice."  The News
Journal stands by its story (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/14).  Kenin noted
that he had asked the paper for "support materials," but was
refused, and said that others present have supported Wright's
version of the events (Maryann Hudson, L.A. TIMES, 5/14).
     WRIGHT'S STATEMENT:  Wright released a two-page statement
recounting the interview with reporter Valerie Helmbreck.  He
explains that he recounted a story by JoAnne Carner, in which she
joked about breasts being the main difference between herself and
male golfers.  Wright:  "At no time did I ever use the word
boobs."  Wright adds that it was Helmbreck, not he, who used the
terms "butch" and "not going to fly" concerning sponsors'
attitudes towards lesbianism and the LPGA.  Wright:  "I never
said anything to the effect that lesbians in women's golf are
hurting the sport or that lesbians were bad for the image of the
game" (USA TODAY, 5/15).  During Saturday's broadcast, Wright
again called the remarks "totally untrue."  Wright:  "Much has
been said and written about these disparaging comments attributed
to me which are not only totally inaccurate, but extremely
distasteful.  It's a pity these remarks have detracted from the
focus of the McDonald's LPGA Championship which has perennially
raised so many millions of dollars for needy children"
("McDonald's Championship," CBS, 5/13).
     DID HE SAY IT?  Skip Bayless: "I think he said it and I
think there is a grain of truth in what he was saying, the first
part of it."  Mike Lupica:  "CBS can't ever quite get this thing
right. ... I think it is admirable that you stand by your guy,
but they did it gracelessly.  I don't think anyone believes this
feature writer for the Wilmington paper went to the golf course
that day and said, 'OK, which one of CBS' golf announcers do I
want to sandbag and try to make national headlines with.'  That's
preposterous" ("Sports Reporters," ESPN, 5/14).  USA TODAY's Mike
Heistand writes, "CBS had better be right about Wright, or it is
going to richly deserve the backlash of criticism that would
blindside the network" (USA TODAY, 5/15).  In San Francisco,
Scott Ostler writes that CBS "launched an in-depth investigation,
which consisted of asking Wright if he said that stuff" (SAN