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Volume 24 No. 156
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Paul Tagliabue, Jim Hackett, Warde Manuel Discuss Topics Within Sports Industry

Former NFL Commissioner PAUL TAGLIABUE, former Michigan interim AD and current Ford CEO JIM HACKETT and current UM AD WARDE MANUEL were featured in a discussion at UM's Gerald R. Ford School for Public Policy on Monday night. The following are some of the more interesting points discussed.  For the full transcript, click here.

Hackett: "A study [McKinsey & Co.] did on women ... (shows) we still don't have enough women CEOs. I know them all, almost, in the Fortune 500. They are about 17% of the population of CEOs today. They have 52% of the population. Women of color are 3% of the CEO population, so it is like nonexistent. ... What is it about the women and women of color that we haven't addressed?"

Tagliabue: "My concern now is that things are being called sports that have nothing to do with sport or with the values of sport. I read about esports, and it is not sports. The only physical activity is pushing keys. It is not getting out there and being challenged physically, emotionally, psychologically. ... I am concerned that more and more of our young people are being taken by technology away from the values of sport and some of the benefits of sport in terms of sport is a microcosm of life. You prepare. You compete. You win or lose. You evaluate. You reevaluate. You re-prepare. You re-compete. That is what life is about, getting yourself better and better, and doing it against competition that is demanding. I think that is a real value, which student athletes in the traditional sports are getting. I am not sure that when we go to esports it is going to be the same benefit."

: "We have a very competitive and championship level esports team here and our engineering students and the School of Information make up that team, so we are very proud of that."

Tagliabue: "I saw a blurb for a conference being held by some sports marketing group recently saying, ‘what every university needs to know about esports.’ And given my own lack of technological sophistication, I forwarded it to the President of Georgetown (JOHN DEGIOIA) with a note saying, what in the hell can esports have to do with the mission of universities? And he sent back an email right away saying, ‘you and I are having lunch on Friday the 17th and I will tell you. It's a lot.’ So I am ready to be educated."

: "Young people very often ask me, what's the most important quality that I can have if I want to be successful? And normally I say listening. Listen. In all contexts. And stop talking. I used to be in meetings at the NFL, this was the early days of Blackberry. And I would be in meetings, and young people on the other side of the table, all they did was talk, my own employees, and I started sending them messages and say, shut up and listen. And then they would come out of the meetings and say, ‘why were you so rude?’ I said, ‘when you’re talking, you are only repeating what you already know. When you are listening, you might learn something new. ... So listen.’ And I learned over many years at the NFL, listening to the players is a really important thing. That is how we got collective bargaining agreements done that produced labor peace for over two decades when there had been labor strikes for almost two decades. We listened and took seriously what the players had to say about what kinds of systems would be mutually advantageous for the owners and for the players. So I have learned that these young men need to be listened to. I have also learned that they know what's going on in their communities and with their families. I used to travel around the world to military bases with NFL players, JEROME BETTIS, MICHAEL STRAHAN, players like that. They are the ultimate patriots. They grew up in military families. It's true of most NFL players. ... Listen to them. That's a starting point. And understand that they are patriotic, which they are. Don't start the conversation with them by calling them son of a bitch. That is not going to be constructive with football players. It is not constructive with most people. It is not constructive with me. ... So understand who these people are and why they are doing what they are doing is the first thing. The second thing is to understand that we do have a first amendment in America. And what it requires is the government to stay the hell out of regulating speech."

Tagliabue: "There is room for difference of agreement. There is no single answer. So ADAM SILVER has been dealing with it in one way in the NBA. He had programs with his players going back to last season, and he is continuing them, and he has told them they have to stand during the anthem. Commissioner (ROGER) GOODELL has been trying to walk a tougher line and he has set a tough challenge for himself and for the players in the NFL. How can we make it clear to all of the public, not just some of the public, that we are respectful and patriotic while at the same time focusing on these underlying issues of justice and the criminal law system and in other parts of society? Sports leagues and teams are not designed to be advocacy organizations. ... You know, it is hard enough for the NFL to produce some spots for the United Way on non-controversial things. So I give Commissioner Goodell a lot of credit for taking on the hard challenge, which is to be respectful of the public and families with men and women in the military who lost family members, respectful of the divergence of views we have in America on these issues, but to deal with the underlying substance of what these players are trying to accomplish. And I would say that the players, you have a unique opportunity right now. Your protests have been heard. That is shown in the polls. More than 50 percent of the public is saying, ‘we support the players.’ That was not true a year ago. Same polls a year ago, less than 50% were supporting the players. But you have made your point. Now move on with actions. Actions will speak louder than words."

Manuel: "If you are going to stand up or protest in some way, you have a responsibility to teach others and to tell others how they can help society be better around that particular issue. Not just by the symbolism of taking a knee.  That is the easy thing to do, to protest, to silently protest during the flag. My father was a sergeant in the Army. I don't care how mad I get about something in this country, I am not going to take a knee. ... But I will find a way to make sure that we are trying to resolve and solve problems that I believe need to be resolved and will help them as student athletes. And so I want them to fight. But taking a knee is not necessarily the fight. It is a symbol of your frustration or anger or what's challenging this country, but that's not the fight."