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).