Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Clinton's Race Initiative on Tour: Sports Was Focus of the Latest National Town Hall Meeting

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Clinton's Race Initiative on Tour: Sports Was Focus of the Latest National Town Hall Meeting

Article excerpt

Clinton's Race Initiative On Tour: Sports was focus of the latest national town hall meeting

Sports provided the focus of President Bill Clinton's second town hall meeting on race relations in America. Clinton and leading collegiate and professional sports figures participated in a lively meeting and discussion, which was held at the University of Houston on April 14, 1998. The televised forum was entitled, "Race & Sports; Running in Place?"

ESPN analyst Bob Ley moderated the meeting, which lasted several minutes beyond its ninety-minute time slot. President Clinton has used the town hall meeting format as one of several tools to engage the American people in the national dialogue on race relations he has led over the past year. The first town hall meeting was held in Akron, Ohio, last December.

The wide-ranging discussion, which included collegiate sports icons University of Georgia Athletic Director Vince Dooley and Georgetown University Basketball Coach John Thompson, was broadcast live by the ESPN television network before a national audience. Other town hall meeting participants included former NFL great Jim Brown, Minnesota Vikings coach Dennis Green, track and field star Jackie Joyner-Kersee, baseball Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, San Diego Padres owner John Moores, San Francisco 49ers President Carmen Policy, St. John's University basketball player Felipe Lopez and New York Jets wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson.

"America, rightly or wrongly, is a sports crazy country," Clinton declared at the beginning of the meeting. The president noted that sports are important to Americans because "we often see [them] as a metaphor or symbol of what we are as a people."

With most of the overall discussion centering on the absence of minorities in management jobs in college and professional sports, Clinton attributed the failure of the sports establishment to hire minorities in management positions as an indication of "something wrong with recruitment" efforts. Citing his own record of hiring minorities in his administration, he added that when organizations make credible recruiting efforts, "there's a lot of people out there" to hire.

Thompson, who is regarded as one of college basketball's most influential coaches, noted that sports' managers and owners pretend that racial discrimination does not play a role in hiring practices. "A lot of people don't act as if [discrimination] exists," he said. …

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