The sports world mourns NELSON MANDELA, who died yesterday at 95, "leading to a vast outpouring of tributes from the world's best-known athletes and top sporting bodies," according to Gerald Imray of the AP. When it came to sports, Mandela "had the ability to inspire inspirational figures and leave global stars star-struck." As much as sports figures "loved Mandela, he in turn loved sport and appreciated its enormous potential to do good," and "nowhere more than in his own country, where he famously used the 1995 Rugby World Cup to knock down the last barriers of apartheid." IOC President THOMAS BACH called Mandela "a remarkable man who understood that sport could build bridges, break down walls, and reveal our common humanity." Bach in a statement said that the IOC "will fly the Olympic flag at half-staff for three days for Mandela." FIFA President SEPP BLATTER "ordered that the 209 flags of the world body's member countries at FIFA headquarters in Switzerland be flown at half-staff." NBA Commissioner DAVID STERN said of Mandela, "While we mourn his passing, we know that his legacy and quest for equality will endure" (AP, 12/5). Mandela's "last major appearance on the global stage" was at the championship match of the '10 FIFA World Cup (REUTERS, 12/5).
UNIFYING FORCE: In N.Y., Jere Longman writes Mandela "understood the power of sport to provide dignity and hope in the face of state-sponsored oppression, to undermine discrimination with resistance and to heal and to help unite a society that the racial segregation of apartheid had brutally divided." Institute for Diversity & Ethics in Sports Founder & Dir RICHARD LAPCHICK said of Mandela, "He definitely believed that sports and politics are entwined" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/6). Lapchick in a special to ESPN.com wrote part of Mandela's "humanity was understanding the role sports could play" (ESPN.com, 12/5). SPORTING NEWS' Peter Pedroncelli wrote Mandela was "the true spiritual architect of the World Cup in South Africa, and of the freedom that people in the country enjoy today." The'10 World Cup "must be seen as one of his greatest legacies" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 12/5). SI.com's Jonathan Wilson wrote Mandela "saw the value of sport" and "used it to bring a sense of togetherness to South Africa" (SI.com, 12/5).
BRUSHES WITH GREATNESS: ESPN.com's Bob Harig wrote about TIGER WOODS under the header, "Tiger Felt Impact Of Mandela's Aura" (ESPN.com, 12/5). ESPN.com's Dan Rafael wrote boxing broadcaster LARRY MERCHANT's interview with Mandela "stands out as his most memorable" (ESPN.com, 12/6). SPORTS ON EARTH's Shaun Powell wrote under the header, "A Brush With Mandela" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 12/5).
TV MONITOR: Last night's 11:00pm ET edition of FS1's "Fox Sports Live" and the 10:30pm ET edition of ESPN's "SportsCenter" led with retrospectives of Mandela, with "Fox Sports Live" featuring an appearance by author and Gold Medal-winning U.S. sprinter TOMMIE SMITH, and "SportsCenter" airing reactions from various sports personalities along with taped segments on Mandela's legacy and the '95 South African rugby team winning the World Cup. The regularly scheduled afternoon editions of ESPN's "Around The Horn" and "PTI" were pre-empted for coverage of Mandela. The net's coverage included Lapchick, ESPN's BOB LEY, and Giants DE OSI UMENYIORA discussing Mandela, and live coverage of President Obama's press conference on Mandela's passing. The full episodes of "ATH" and "PTI" aired on ESPN2. Meanwhile, last night's editions of ABC, CBS and NBC network news broadcasts all led with Mandela, with ABC's "World News" devoting its entire 30-minute broadcast to his passing. This morning's network morning news shows also each led with Mandela, with ABC's "GMA" featuring appearances by human rights attorney GAY MCDOUGALL. NBC's "Today" featured live, in-studio appearances from TOM BROKAW and CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT. On CBS's "This Morning," former Sec. of States COLIN POWELL and JAMES BAKER appeared via satellite. Also, IMG Artists President & CEO JERRY INZERILLO, a close friend of Mandela, former Time magazine Managing Editor RICHARD STENGEL, South African author YVETTE CHRISTIANSE and the net's BOB SIMON appeared live in-studio, while a taped segment featured singer BONO discussing Mandela.