THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||April 14, 1998|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
IN ESPN LIVE
A CONVERSATION WITH THE PRESIDENT
SPORTS AND RACE: RUNNING IN PLACE?
Wortham Theater Center
7:00 P.M. CDT
MR. LEY: Thank you, Mr. President, for being here. We deeplyappreciate it. I know your race initiative has been underway for seven oreight months. There are problems in this country, issues in this country.As we talk tonight race and sports, what can this dialogue bring to thenation at large, for there are bigger issues than simply those in sports?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, let me thank you and ESPN fordoing this for the second time, and thank our panelists for being willingto put themselves on the line and be honest and open and accountable to theaudience.
I'd like to say a couple of things I think we can achieve. First ofall, America, rightly or wrongly, is a sports crazy country and we oftensee games as a metaphor or a symbol of what we are as a people. So I thinkby dealing with both the positive things which have happened in terms ofopportunity for people of all races, and people getting together andworking together, and the continuing challenges in athletics, I think justby doing that we learn more about the rest of the country and what needs tobe done.
Beyond that, I think that it's important that people see that inathletics in America, that the rules are fair, that people get their fairchance, and I would hope, too, that the concern for the lives of theplayers off the field, off the court, and what they're doing when theirathletic careers are over and whether they still will be full and equalmembers of society, closing the opportunity gaps that have existedhistorically between the races in our country -- whether there's somethingwe can do about that, because that clearly will have larger implicationsfor the society as a whole.
But all of us as Americans, I think, should be both proud of how farwe've come when we see what racial and ethnic and religious tensions aredoing in other parts of the world, and at the same time, should be verydetermined to continue to meet the challenges that still exist, because ourcountry is becoming more and more racially and ethically diverse, and if wecan be one America, celebrating our diversity, but knowing what we have incommon, then it's the greatest asset I can imagine for us to take into the21st century. But it's something we really have to work at as I'm sure allthese folks will tell.
MR. LEY: Well, we've got 90 minutes to try.
Let me turn to the gentleman seated to your left, Jim Brown. You wereon our panel 14 months ago. Put your finger in the water here, take thetemperature -- what's the last 14 months brought to your mind on thiscontinuum of race of sports?
MR. BROWN: Well, the first think I'd like to say is that I'm veryhappy that the President visited Africa and deal with the scientific factof humankind. For all of my black brothers and sisters out there, I wouldlike to say there's no reason to feel inferior because, as the Presidentpointed out, mankind started in Africa, and we're all of that particularrace.
Having said that, I would like to say that I feel that in the last 14months that we have made tremendous progress. Contrary to common belief,white America has stood up in so many cases -- going back to Paul Brown,dealing with the 49ers, dealing with Bob Kraft of the New England Patriots-- we have had tremendous opportunities. If we take advantage of thoseopportunities and use the rules of economics, we will then find ourrightful place in this society.
Use the positive spin. Talk to those who have been positive who havehelped us, rather than addressing the negative aspects of racism.
MR. LEY: Well, John Thompson, several times in the last few years --'89 you walked off over issues with the NCAA; '94 there was nearly aboycott by the Black Coaches Association. Is it still an issue, though, insports where you have to almost verge on civil disobedience '90s style andbring attention to these issues?
MR. THOMPSON: I don't know whether you have to do a civildisobedience, but I think you've got to create a consciousness of the factthat there's still a lot of people who are able to participate in thecotton field who is not able to be the foreman or not able to be the boss,or not able to have that opportunity. And that's what I think you try todo. You've got to be able to talk about it sensibly without peoplebecoming so sensitive to it and acting as if it doesn't exist.
Several kids who are able to play at universities in this country whowouldn't even be considered for a job. And that's a fact. It's asensitive subject; it doesn't mean that you become hostile, but you cannotclose your eyes and act as if this doesn't exist. And I think that that'svery important for us to discuss it, and that's why you need to becommended for having this type of a show, so we can discuss itintelligently.
MR. LEY: Well, why is it so sensitive?
MR. THOMPSON: Why is it so sensitive -- it's very sensitive becauseof the very fact that, first of all, a lot of folks want to act as if itdoesn't exist. It's obvious by the fact that if you look in our societytoday at the number of kids who participate particularly in basketball,which is the area that I'm in -- if you look at the number of athleticdirectors that are in this country, if you look at the number of basketballcoaches that are in this country, it's amazing to me how a person can be socompetent as a player and so incompetent and his knowledge leaves him oncehe graduates from a university. And that same university does not selecthim to participate at any level.
I think that becomes sensitive when you discuss that with folks. Itshouldn't be sensitive. You should be able to openly sit down and youshould be able to talk about it. But it's a fact.
MR. LEY: Keyshawn, you're of the young generation of athletes. Yourexperiences vary, certainly, from many of the other people on the panel.You talk in your book about your perceptions of racism in sports. Give methe box-top answer. Where is it now to your mind?
MR. JOHNSON: I think when I first got drafted into the NationalFootball League there were things that were said to me as an individualplayer as everything being treated fairly and equally. I didn't see itthat way my rookie year, which is a very sensitive subject. But also, inmy mind, I wanted to do these great things for this team and help this teamwin, and at the time, we had individuals working within our organizationthat for some reason they didn't see it in the same point of view. So whenI decided to write my book, those are things along the line that were racetopics and issues that preyed in my mind and I thought that needed to bediscussed.
MR. LEY: You take none of it back?
MR. JOHNSON: Excuse me?
MR. LEY: You take none of it back? You stand by what you wrote twoyears ago, right?
MR. JOHNSON: Oh, yes, definitely.
MR. LEY: Oh, Carmen Policy, you work in football, and you have tomake personnel decisions. I'm sure you're familiar with Keyshawn, withwhat he had to say about the Jets and personnel decisions. What was yourreading of that, and as you look at personnel decisions that have to bemade, how they can be interpreted?
MR. POLICY: Well, I think what you had in Keyshawn's book was a youngman speaking his mind. I think he was speaking his heart, as well. Ithink that having talked to Keyshawn before tonight's program began, hefeels differently about his experience with the Jets today than he did lastyear. And I think he'd write a different book if he had the opportunity todo so in five years.
And I think that you have to understand that we're dealing with veryyoung athletes who are expected to be professionals. We're dealing with21, 22-year-old passionate young men. And we have to take that intoconsideration when we bring them into the ranks of the pros.
MR. LEY: Let's talk about hiring practices, though, in your league.You know, two winters ago there were 11 vacancies -- 0 for 11 on minorityhires. Even in the past year, with a special head hunter in place for theNFL, reportedly that head hunter was not even contacted -- a gentleman whowas supposed to find minority candidates -- as these positions were filled.Are you satisfied with what the NFL is doing?
MR. POLICY: I think we have to understand a given. I don't believethere's an owner in the NFL that if he felt that an individual was the bestcandidate to be the head coach of his team and if that candidate wereblack, he would not get a job. There's no question in my mind he'd beselected. But I think the process by which we go about selecting our headcoaches and the time frame into which it's squeezed is so flawed that wedon't have the opportunity to reach out, go through the kind of barriersthat are there and find that talent pool that's available -- and should beavailable -- to make our business a better business and make our sport abetter sport.
MR. LEY: Denny Green, how did you break through that barrier?
MR. GREEN: Well, I don't call it a barrier, I call it a hurdle. AndI think a hurdle is something that you can jump over, and I'm clearly readyto jump over that hurdle maybe for the rest of my life. I don't want mythree children to have to jump over the exact same hurdle.
I think one of things that we're doing here now is we're bringing atremendous amount of focus on sports because we love sports. And I look atthe National Football League; I've tried to be as involved as I can, aswell as trying to bring a championship to the Vikings, but also to try tobe involved with the Commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, and the rest of the, Ithink, leadership of the National Football League. But if you have a goal,you have to be able to measure the goal. If you measure the goal, 0 for 15in the last three years, we have to say that the goals are specific,they're measurable, they're attainable, they're realistic and timely, andwe failed in reaching our goal. We have not had any coaches hired in thelast two years and I think that's wrong.
MR. LEY: Let me ask the President, if I could, sir, so much of thisis about numbers in sports and you know Dr. Richard Lapchik (phonetic) verywell and his numbers that take into account -- should we be drawingconclusions from the numbers -- 0 for 15 over the course of three years -does that say something?
THE PRESIDENT: It says something. We just have to make sure we knowwhat it says. For example, very often we assume that those numbers arethere, there's some maybe even an illegal practice, which may not be true.But if you go back to what Carmen said, one of the things that I've seen --or go back to what John Thompson said -- and you know, Georgetown is myalma mater so I always try to cheer for John and try never to disagree withhim. (Laughter.) But there's some -- let's assume that there isabsolutely no conscious racism in any of these decisions. I have been nowin an executive position, I've been President for five and half yearsnearly. I was governor of my state for 12 years. I've hired hundreds andhundreds and hundreds of people. And every position I've ever held, I'vealways hired more minorities than my predecessors. When I was governor, Ihired more minorities and -- more than all my predecessors combined. Noone ever accused me of giving anybody anything for which they weren'tqualified.
But what I found out was, if that was goal, and you knew it wasimportant, there was a certain network by which -- the easy network bywhich those decisions are made, and you've got to break through the networkand change the rules if you want to do it. (Applause.)
MR. LEY: So the numbers are important then?
THE PRESIDENT: Number are important. But my reaction was, whenKeyshawn's book came out -- you know, I'm a big football fan, I saw thisand I saw him play in college. You know, if I were running his team, I'djust want to make as many touchdowns as I could, you know. And what Ithink you have to do is to kind of -- Carmen went around here and he reallyprepared for this tonight. So I think that's what we need people to do forthese coaching positions. We need to think if this is a problem, we wantmore minority coaches in the NFL, we want more minority coaches in thecollege ranks, you have to say -- and we're making an honest effort to pickthe most qualified people, why aren't we producing them?
I'd say there's something wrong with the recruitment system, with thepool, and you've got to rethink that and make a real effort. Myexperience, my personal experiences, if you make a real effort there arelots people out there. Since I believe intelligence and ability are evenlydistributed across racial and ethnic groups, if you look at it, you canfind it. (Applause.)
MR. LEY: Let me go to John Moores who owns the San Diego Padres.John, we're very happy that you're here tonight. We did this 14 months agoand baseball was unable to give us an owner. And going through theCommissioner's Office this time around, I will tell you, it was difficult,and finally we directly asked you and you did appear. Baseball, when it'sgraded out, subjectively, doesn't grade out well in this category. Are yousatisfied with what your industry is doing, as an equity shareholder, tohire fairly?
MR. MOORES: Oh, absolutely not. I think baseball is clearly the mostdiverse sport and it has more opportunity to show that diversity in hiring.One of the surprising things I found in baseball is that there are a numberof extremely qualified people who have been passed over for reasons I don'tunderstand. In particular, I'd like to put a plug in for Davy Lopes, who Ithink is probably the most qualified person on the planet who's not amanager of a major league team. And even though I would hate to lose himas one of our coaches, he clearly would add something to another club.I'd like to see him in the American League rather than the National League.(Laughter.) But that does give me pause and you wonder why those thingshappen.
MR. LEY: Why do you think they happen?
MR. MOORES: Well, I think the country has come a long way. And I'mterribly pleased to be in Clyde Drexler's hometown right now, where --(applause) -- Clyde will restore the University of Houston and PhiSlamma-Jamma to its rightful position. (Laughter and applause.)
MR. LEY: You're playing to the house. (Laughter.)
MR. MOORES: But I must say, what Clyde would do -- the reception thiscommunity -- you just heard it -- has given Clyde is overwhelming. Theuniversity is having trouble keeping tickets in stock. That would not havebeen the case when I was a student there many years ago. We had a greatwhite coach, but under no circumstances could that school have thoughtabout anybody other than a white guy. So I think society is clearly movingin the right direction. But obviously, we have miles to go before wesleep.
MR. LEY: All right, you're a baseball owner, Joe Morgan, you madeyour name and your fame in baseball. You were in our first town hallmeeting 14 months ago, at which baseball did provide an owner at thatpoint. What is your take of the temperature of the water of the last 14months?
MR. MORGAN: I think it has made a slight change. I think sometimesprogress is subtle, like racism. It's hard to measure sometimes theprogress. For instance, we have now -- meaning we, baseball -- has hiredanother minority manager, Jerry Manuel, but prior to that, there had been,like, 33 job openings and minorities had not even been given interviews.
You can't say that we should have X-number of major league managerswho are African Americans. I don't believe that. All I've ever wanted orasked baseball to do is to make sure that when an opening occurs, thatAfrican Americans are part of the interview process. There's no way in mymind that if Davy Lopes -- who I happen to agree with John -- ChrisShambliss, Cito Gaston -- there are a lot of players who are qualified tomajor league manager and they're not even interviewed when these jobopenings occur. And that's the problem I have. Like I said, you can't usenumbers. I just feel like if you put them in the interview process, maybe,as Ron Shuler said, you can be overwhelmed -- as Jerry Manuel did, to getthe job. But if you're not interviewed, you're not going to get theopportunity to prove that you're capable of being a major league manager.
And I guess I go back to what John said; some of the greatest playersin baseball history have been African Americans. Yet once they'refinished, there's no place for them to go. And that includes the broadcastbooth; that includes management positions, front office positions, evencoaching positions. I think you'll find that there have been more AfricanAmerican hitting coaches than anyplace else -- not bench coaches who arehelping make the decisions, but hitting instructors, because they're ableto get along with the players well.
So my point is, I just want them to be part of the interviewingprocess. Give them an opportunity to prove to the management people thatthey are qualified. If you don't ask them the question, they can't giveyou the answer. (Applause.)
MR. LEY: Vince Dooley, in Division One college football, over halfthe players are African American, 93 percent of the head coaches are whiteand 94 percent of the time in the last three years, the job has been filledfrom a white coach to a white coach. Are those numbers -- can you explainthem and are they defensible?
MR. DOOLEY: Well, before speaking about the numbers -- and I willanswer that question -- I would like to make this comment to the President,because as some point in time in his life, the history will be writtenabout his administration and there will be two sides to that history. ButI think that one focus that will be true of any historian that will writeabout the President, that this initiative, this particular initiative ofgetting people to talk about race relations and about diversity, is goingto be the most positive thing that ever happened. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MR. DOOLEY: And I say that because I see it around the country and Isee it in my hometown of Athens, Georgia, where the University of Georgiais. My wife has a radio call-in show and she now has a series on racerelations where leaders of black in the community, and in the whitecommunity, and the Asian community now come together and discuss this.
In college football we've made a lot of strides -- we've made a lot ofstrides in inter-collegiate athletics. What we need more of is the JohnThompsons, we need more of the Tubby Smiths in the world. When you have aTubby Smith -- he came with us only two years, but we can at least bragthat he got some of his last training before he went to Kentucky to win thenational championship. (Laughter.) But when we have those -- and we havea lot in basketball and I think that a Tubby Smith in the south has donemore for sports and the opportunities than a lot of things that havehappened recently. What we need is more success in college football.Dennis Green was a very successful college football coach, but he left us.And what we need is more Dennis Greens, and when we have that, that's goingto help our situation.
MR. LOPEZ: Well, for myself, I don't really think so. I think that Igot the help that I really needed within the people around me. I've beenfortunate to know a lot of great people within the basketball area, andthose have been some of the things that have helped me be the person that Iam. And I think the opportunity that people could get by just being insuch a different racial community is that you can get so much out of --from so much different people. And that definitely you can learn fromanything that the race can bring to you. And I've just been fortunate,because of what I have learned from other people.
MR. LEY: Well, Jackie, let me ask you, in East St. Louis, so involvedwith the kids, and also on the flip side now, the business world -- wheredo you think it's easier to talk about it, among kids -- among suits?
MS. JOYNER-KERSEE: Well, personally, I think having the dialogue, itstarts there, but we can talk and we can talk, but people need to listenand people need to do something about it. And for me, even working withkids, we talk about diversity, a melting pot, you're hearing from greatplayers, coaches, owners, and you're talking about also that setting anexample -- and you wonder why kids don't want to be in administration orwhy they don't strive to want to be a major league owner, or NBA owner --because they don't see that.
But then you see, we come together and we talk about this raceinitiative, this program that we're trying to do and trying to not justreach kids or reach the suits. For me, as a woman, there are things thatwe have to deal with, just being a woman in general. It's obvious thecolor that I am; that should not be an issue. It should be that if theperson is qualified, that person is qualified. But then you talk about thenetworking. If we don't have the opportunity to be in that environment, tobe a part of that network, I don't see how you're going to get to that nextlevel.
Even with myself, with trying to run a foundation, and you bring inpeople to set up -- to ask questions. They ask questions that's not reallyrelated to what you're trying to do. They don't even share your vision, sothat automatically eliminates somebody that might be qualified because theydid not ask the right question, or they're on a quota or point system andthose points don't add up.
So it's subtle racism, it's hidden racism. There's hidden agendas andthere are things that we as people have to deal with. But also we aspeople have to be listening and want to deal with it, and not just brushthings under the table and say, oh, well, when the next person comes along-- because it's going to be the next person, the next person after that.(Applause.)
MR. LEY: Well, we are talking about it tonight. We are going to stepaside for a commercial break, and as we continue we'll look at the issue ofstereotypes in sports -- images such as Cordell Stewart quarterbacking forthe Steelers; or Keith Van Horn taking it to the hole for the New JerseyNets. Things that people think about and sometimes talk about, as wecontinue live from Houston.
MR. LEY: Let me ask Keyshawn this. You've got Rich Chrebet on yourteam -- Wayne Chrebet, excuse me -- and you've got Jason Seahorn who playsin the same stadium, a white cornerback that has been talked about instereotypes. We talked to some NFL players who line up against Seahorn andthey told as black players, I can take this guy. Do you think that thereis a subtle point even in a professional athlete's mind about thestereotyping by position, by appearance?
MR. JOHNSON: I think so because it comes, first of all, it comes fromthe media. I think that's where it starts, because back a while ago, themedia points and targets certain athletes at certain positions. Mostrunningbacks are African American; most quarterbacks are white; mostcornerbacks are African American except for Jason. I played with Jason incollege; I line up across from Jason -- I don't even look at him like that,I look at him as a cornerback.
Then on the flip side, you walk back and somebody says, well, a whitedude, he beat you up. (Laughter.) Afterwards, he's done a great job, thenthe media takes it and turns it into wanting to make him into the nextgreat white corner. I don't know what cornerback was a good whitecornerback in the day from -- (laughter.)
MR. LEY: Do you think it is the media, the media is the reason, orthere are other reasons why he is the only white cornerback in the NationalFootball League?
MR. JOHNSON: I think so. I think there's a reason why he's one ofthe only white cornerbacks. It has to do with the people upstairs and someof the coaches. They go out and they time these players and in thatposition you have to run a certain time, you have to be fast, you have tobe aggressive. And a lot of times, because of the stereotypes, whiteathletes they feel are not aggressive enough to play that position to stopindividuals like myself or individuals like Jerry Rice, big receivers.
So a lot of time you don't find an athlete -- Jason Seahorn's biggerthan me. He stands about 6'4", about 220 pounds, and can probably run likesub-4-3, which is on the board, on paper, is like a superstar athlete. Iguess in so many words, certain white athletes, you just don't find that.They say that you find the smart quarterback that can make the quickdecisions, when an African American quarterback can't make that quickdecision.
MR. LEY: Let's go outside for our first question, and we'll get backto the panel. Let's go over to microphone B here for a question.
Q Good evening. My name is Michael Waters. I'm 18 years old andstudent vice president at my high school. Mr. Brown, I've heard that manypeople believe that blacks are physically equipped better to play sportsthan many whites. Do you feel that this statement is a form ofdiscrimination against whites, and more in particular, white athletes?
MR. BROWN: I think the lack of education -- I think these stereotypesthat we're talking about, these cliches that we're using up here is reallynot getting to the point. If I might make this one point -- Keyshawn, Iunderstand what you say, but in the '60s and the '50s we dealt withdiscrimination. No one up here has made an important point abouteconomics. We have -- (applause.) We have athletes and coaches that areblack that are making millions of dollars. You have not brought thatsubject up. You have not said to them, why don't you hire black lawyers,agents and managers? (Applause.)
Those black lawyers, agents and managers would be handling thoseinvestment dollars. Right now the black investment dollars go into otherneighborhoods. (Applause.) We stood up and we talk about one more blackcoach. One more black coach is a symbolic situation. Those investmentdollars are the way to rebuild communities, show people that we can haveracial unity, and that we understand the principles of economics.
So I'd like to see someone address that and get away from thesesimplistic stereotypes. I don't particularly care about what anybodythinks about -- (applause.)
MR. JOHNSON: I have an African American attorney. (Laughter.) But Ididn't hire him because he was African American, I gave him the opportunityfor the application, to fill it out, to inquire, but I wanted to know if hecould handle the job. I interviewed many whites, all across the board,some of the top agents in the business -- as well as my investmentfinancial people happen to be black. But they fit the mold of things thatI want to do. I want to get back into my community, put the dollars inindustry -- (applause.)
MR. LEY: Well, Jackie, you're an agent now. How important is that toyou to have African American clients and to begin to do what Jim talkedabout?
MS. JOYNER-KERSEE: Well, for me personally, when I brought up theissue about time to find an executive director for my foundation, andworking with a board, but I also having them to understand, too, that if Idon't give this person an opportunity, who will? And I'm in a positionwhere I can do that. And this is just working from the community base, butalso trying to be an agent, trying to work with other just young athletes.
Because I find that sometimes athletes take for granted that they'rejust going to get certain things, and you have to make sure that you putthem in a position or they're in a position where they can take care oftheir business, and can take care of their finances, but also trying tohelp you along the way, too. But I think there's a fine line there, thatas an agent, I have responsibilities, too, but also as I've tried to goafter student athletes, I want to make sure that they not only representthemselves in a good way, but also represent and stand for some of the samethings that I stand for.
MR. LEY: Let me ask John Thompson, if I could -- just quickly, John,what went through your mind when you heard Jim Brown talk about the need tohave African American attorneys? You have David Faulk, one of the mostpowerful legends in sports.
MR. THOMPSON: I can't use profanity on the show.
MR. LEY: Well, we're cable, John.
MR. THOMPSON: No, well, I think that's the struggle that we're in insociety. I probably receive a lot of criticism because of my outspokennessabout racial issues, and David Faulk represents a lot of my players.Unfortunately, I find it very difficult to fire David because he's whitewhen I started out as a young coach at Georgetown and no African Americanwanted to help me, but David did. And David took the time to work and beconcerned about players that weren't superstars.
Now that John Thompson is successful and has successful players, Ifind it very difficult to fire David Faulk because the pigmentation in hisskin is white, besides the fact that he is competent and he's my friend.(Applause.)
But let me caution you about that statement. It pulls at me and italso hurts me because I am also very sympathetic with what has occurred inour society, and I am very sensitive to the fact of what Jim is saying andwhat she is saying. But how far do you go? Do I pick a black dentist, doI pick a black lawyer, do I pick a black -- society has caused that. Ididn't cause that. Society made us racial -- I hate to use the word"racist" because we all get very nervous when people start talking aboutracism. But society has made us racial. But you have to constantly be inthat struggle of being able to deal with that.
I had a young man that happened to be white, was the only young manthat wanted to do the broadcasting at Georgetown when I started off. Wecouldn't get on television, we couldn't get on radio. A young white kidcame up to me at a game one time and said, if you let me do it, I'll go outand sell the advertisement. I let him go out and sell the advertisement,and once he sold the advertisement and put us on the air, some blacks cameto me and said, you're an Uncle Tom because you got that white boy. That'sthe struggle that society has caused, and that's why these kinds ofconversations are extremely important.
The racial composition of my team -- whites will come to you and say,
because my team is predominantly black that you're a racist. Well, I'm anUncle Tom to blacks; I'm a racist -- (laughter) -- and I'm going to tellyou something. I don't give a damn what either side says. (Laughter andapplause.)
MR. LEY: You want to win, right? You want to win.
MR. THOMPSON: What is very, very important for a John Thompson isconsciously in my mind to know that I am doing what is best. But societycreated that problem. I have to question myself in everything that I do.
Let me just say one thing to speak on what Mr. Dooley said. You knowwhat I have a problem with? I have a problem with the John Thompsons andthe Tubby Smiths of society. I'm sick of it. I'm sick of it. And I'mgoing to why I'm sick of them. It's simply because there are a whole lotof white coaches who aren't successful. Blacks don't have to win thenational championship to get an opportunity to coach. (Applause.) And youhear that in relation to education, you hear that in relation toprofessors. You ask, why don't you have more black professors. I willtake a black if he's competent. Well, hell, there's hell of a lot of whitefailing. (Laughter.) All we want is an opportunity to get out there andto try and a right to fail also. And respectfully I am saying that to you.(Applause.) I'm sick of us having to be perfect to get the job.(Laughter.) I don't want to be perfect to get the job. (Applause.)
MR. LEY: Having said that, Vince, when you hired Tubby Smith severalyears ago you were quoted as saying, he's the only guy I wanted, I wentafter him, he was the only guy I interviewed. And I know a columnist inAtlanta raised the question, could you, would you have been able to saythat about a white coach -- the flip side of the coin? Could you have saidthat or would you have been under such political correctness pressure tosay, no, we canvassed and this is my coach? Tubby Smith, African American,that was your hire.
MR. DOOLEY: Yes, I could have said that if I knew in my mind who Iwanted and that person, white or black, was the one I wanted, then he wouldbe the only one that I would interview -- that's right. I think I would dothat, because, going with what John said, I believe that I'm doing what Ibelieve is right, regardless of whether --
MR. LEY: Don't you acknowledge, though, the reality in 1998 that ifan athletic director said, I've got -- especially in college basketball,where you have such a majority African American composition of athletes,you have to give at least the appearance of a fair and open search, butthat to take a Tubby Smith, who had been trumpeted in the media and isAfrican American, that's a politically safe choice. It's a good choice,but it's politically safe.
MR. DOOLEY: Well, when one searches, one does not necessarily have tointerview. If you look -- that the interview might be the least mostimportant thing of all the things that you'd like to find. The history ofsuccess -- and we do want to hire good coaches. I mean, as an athleticdirector I'm not just looking to hire coaches, I want to hire good coaches,the best coach that I can hire. But it may not necessarily be that Iinterview that individual. Certainly the history of success of thatindividual goes a long ways and rates much higher than how someone can beable to give just an interview.
MR. LEY: We've covered a lot of ground. Mr. President, I'd just liketo get your impressions of the last 15 minutes at this point -- kind of amid-point.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I appreciate the honesty of theinterchange and that shows basically the -- actually the progress that'sbeen made on this issue in athletics. Why? Because I basically -- I agreewith the point Jim Brown made, but I respect what John Thompson said. Thatis, if you have personal experiences with people who have helped you toachieve your goals, even if they're of different races, and you're notgoing to turn around and abandon your friends or abandon people who aredoing a good job for you. And that's good.
The point Jim is making, however, is a different one and I'd just liketo sort of -- because when we get to the last section, there's anotherissue I want us to get to, which is related to this -- but what he'spointing out, there's still a huge opportunity gap in our society by racein terms of economic standing. That's the only point he was making -- andthat if we want a stable society, we want large middle classes amongAfrican Americans, large middle classes among Hispanic Americans, largemiddle classes among Asian American immigrants -- first generationimmigrants. That's the point Jim's making. And that if a group, a certaingroup within the African American community, let's say, has amassed hiswealth and then has to reinvest it, to the extent that they can also helpto create this larger middle class while helping themselves and doingsomething, that's a good thing.
I think you can say that and still respect John's decision, which Ithink we all do, and respect any other individual decisions that wouldcross racial lines. But the effort to create a middle class, people whosenames will never be in the newspaper but who helped to build a big, stablesociety, I think that's a very important goal for us here. (Applause.)
MR. LEY: Do you think athletes have a special responsibility to havea social conscience to act, to be involved in the communities, or is thatunfair?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I don't think it's unfair. I think, first of all,I think anybody with a special gift has a special responsibility. And ifyou've got a special gift, whatever the gift is -- if you're a greatsinger, if you're great at making money, if you're a brilliant scientist --I think if you have a special gift, if God gave you something that otherpeople don't normally have, and no matter how hard they work they can't getthere, then you owe more back. That's what I believe. So, yes, I believethat. (Applause.)
MR. LEY: We're going to step aside for just a moment. We'll continue-- Felipe will get to that point -- as we take a commercial break and we'llbe back in Houston in just a moment, continuing with our town meeting, liveon ESPN.
MR. LEY: Welcome back to Houston as we continue live with thePresident and our panel here in Houston.
Denny Green, I know you wanted to jump in. You talked in your bookabout a scenario that you'd like to buy an NFL team, a specific team at thetime. You've also been outspoken in trying to help assistant coaches learnhow to interview. How do you see the access to the power structure?
MR. GREEN: I think the access has to be improved greatly. I thinkthere's some attempts to get there, but we have a long way to go. Iremember on March 20th, last month, screaming headlines in The New YorkTimes, "give us a chance to compete." That was not by a coach to theNational Football League or any other special interest group, it was by theCEOs, chief executive officers, of the banking, insurance and the securitybusiness. Why? Because everybody wants to have a chance to compete on thelevel playing field. The President is going to have his hands full becausethey have taken matters into their own hands.
What we want as coaches is a criteria that will give us a chance tocompete in the National Football League. And what I said in my book, "NoRoom for Cry-Babies," was the National Football League has a new way topick its players. This is not the '60s or the '70s, '80s, and '90s, alevel playing field for the players, but it's still using the same oldsystem of picking its coaches. (Applause.)
MR. LEY: What about picking its owners? If you had a group togetherwith $300 million in credit and somebody with a heck of a lot of money --you talked about it and it stirred up a hornet's nest -- about buying theteam. Could you buy a team?
MR. GREEN: Well, you can buy the team because no one puts their ownmoney into buying the team. They borrow the money from the banks. And Ithink -- (laughter) -- as long as you can service the loan, you can buy theteam. (Laughter and applause.)
MR. LEY: But how do you explain the fact throughout all of majorprofessional sports there's not one top guy of color?
MR. GREEN: Well, first off, you have to have focus, you have to haveopportunity. And I think that's what it comes down to. I never had anopportunity to buy a team in the National Football League and I know ofonly a few African Americans that have had a chance -- or basically evenpeople of color who have had a chance to be involved in the ownershiplevel. I think it's a process. We all were players; at one point youbecome coaches, managers. At one point, if ownership is going to be there,it comes from the same idea of equal access, equal opportunity, looking atme as a man first, and not a black man. (Applause.)
MR. LEY: Jim, go ahead.
MR. BROWN: It isn't a matter of a chance of acquiring a team. It's amatter of amassing the amount of dollars. And I'm sure that any AfricanAmerican group today that raised enough money could purchase a team. In mymind, there's no doubt about. I'm sorry, sir, in that sense.
We talk about chance and opportunity and being allowed, yet oureconomic dollars are never pooled in a manner to give us that kind ofpower. If you talk about access to a major corporation, you talk aboutMichael Jordan, you talk about Tiger Woods -- they're with Nike, right?They have the ear of Phil Knight. On a massive scale, from the standpointof delivering black folks into any arena, what are they doing? That's allI'm saying. (Applause.)
MR. LEY: John Thompson, you're on Nike's board of directors --(laughter) -- I'm sorry, but let me ask you first the question as acapitalist. I mean, when prominent black Americans and people in athleticsget together and chat, do they float the idea, gee, you know, a couple ofmillion here or there -- men of substance could get it together. Whyhasn't it happened?
MR. THOMPSON: I think it hasn't happened for a lot of reasons. Ithink, first of all, in defense of my great company, Nike, I think --(laughter) --
MR. LEY: You've done it again, Jim. (Laughter.)
MR. THOMPSON: I think one of the things that we have to remember andgive Phil Knight credit for is the fact that Michael Jordan and Tiger Woodswere put in a position that very few blacks in the history of this countryhave ever been placed in, including this gentleman who is probably one ofthe greatest ever to be in athletics. Never was he provided with anopportunity to have national commercials or national dollars with histalents. So let's give credit where credit belongs first.
MR. LEY: Mr. Brown?
MR. BROWN: Because Nike is benefitting --
MR. THOMPSON: Very much benefitting --
MR. BROWN: Those individuals have made that company very successful.(Applause.)
MR. THOMPSON: I also feel you would have made a lot of companiesextremely successful had they given you the opportunity that these peopledid not get. (Applause.) That's the point. The point is, is that PhilKnight was one of the very first in the history of this country to evergive blacks that kind of opportunity. Do they talk about it? Certainlythey talk about it.
I think also what the gentleman to my right, who sees the seams in abaseball, says -- (laughter) -- is that you have to be able to get themoney from the bank, as Coach Green said. Those are relationships withpeople from financial houses which we don't have. We don't have thoserelationships. Nobody -- Michael Jordan would be an absolute idiot to takehis money and put it into a baseball team. He would be an absolute idiot.What Michael Jordan has to be able to do is to be able to get that moneyfrom the financial houses and that is extremely difficult for any black inthis country to do.
MR. LEY: Jackie, jump in. Go ahead.
MS. JOYNER-KERSEE: I also like to add, too, whereas taking a companylike Nike -- they are reinvesting into the Boys and Girls Clubs, putting $5million to $10 million across the country, trying to help inner-cityprograms throughout the country. And that's a great program -- (applause)-- as well as taking old shoes, recycling those shoes and turning theminto different courts across the country.
And then you have -- even with Michael Jordan now, to brand Michael,now to have his own, say, company, he is his own CEO. Those are thingsthat -- I think they're doing a great job. I mean, you use Michael as oneexample; then you have Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods is 21 years of age. He'sembarking on a whole new realm of things and he's having the Tiger WoodsFoundation, he's doing different things in the inner city. And that's alsobringing dollars into those inner cities. When Tiger Woods goes into thatcity, people are coming out to see Tiger Woods. And that's reinvestinginto that community, bringing dollars that wouldn't ordinarily come there,and also bringing different races all together to be a part of a greatevent. (Applause.)
MR. BROWN: Sophistication and sentimentality is two different things.John says that -- when I brought the subject up of the millions of dollarswithin the black athletic community, I was talking about a capital base.That doesn't have anything to do with a bank. There are entrepreneurs allover this country that have gotten together, pooled their money andcreated mammoth businesses.
Jackie, it is great that these individuals go into the community, workwith the Boys and Girls Clubs, and so forth. That's wonderful becausethey're working with children. But when you talk about what white Americadoesn't do, and you ask this man to hire somebody because he's black, oryou talk about the numbers and you skip right over the fact that we havethe resources to create any industry that we want to if we come togetherand use the same principles. That's just the way it goes. (Applause.)
MS. JOYNER-KERSEE: But also, you could talk about creating thoseresources, but you've got to deal with the individual. Do I want to dothat? You've got to take it to each one of those individual you're talkingabout and building that base.
MR. BROWN: You have a choice.
MS. JOYNER-KERSEE: If you don't want to do that -- you can't forcethem to do it. I understand --
MR. BROWN: We all have a choice.
MS. JOYNER-KERSEE: Yes, we have a choice, and that choice is not forus to do that.
MR. BROWN: And so does that man, and so does that man.
MS. JOYNER-KERSEE: Right, that's true.
MR. BROWN: That's my only point.
MS. JOYNER-KERSEE: But when you talked about blacks building thatcapital, they no sooner got that capital -- if they don't want to put thatcapital in there, we can't force them as human beings.
MR. BROWN: Does that go for whites, too?
MS. JOYNER-KERSEE: That goes for whites, too. But they go and theydo that. They would do that. But you can't criticize one if they don'twant to do it. If I made all this money and I want my money invested here,I have a right to do that. That is my choice. That's why we live inAmerica, because we have choice. (Applause.)
MR. LEY: Let's go upstairs for a question.
Q Hello, my name is Fernando Tamayo. I'm a senior at WashingtonHigh School. My question is, you, the panel, mentioned white, black,Asian. Not once have I heard you mention Hispanic. (Applause.) Not onlyare we the fastest minority growing, we are also helping America groweconomically.
MR. LEY: Let me ask Felipe. Felipe, do you think Hispanics are lostin the -- especially the sporting world?
MR. LOPEZ: It's a great point which he made. We are one of thecommunities that every day is growing rapidly. And I think the things thatwe are doing for this country should be pulling out there, into the world,because people really have to realize that we are making a greatcontribution to this country.
And I think one other thing that we, as Hispanic people, shouldrealize is that the more we work together, the more opportunity we aregoing to get in society. And that's why we all have to stick -- as acommunity we have to stick together, because no matter what, we want to belooking out for each other. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Let me make one observation about this. HispanicAmericans are the fastest growing ethnic group in our country.Historically, they have done very well in America through an enormous workethic and an enormous commitment to family.
There was a wonderful movie a couple of years ago with Edward JamesOlmos and a number of other Hispanic actors and actresses called MiFamilia. It was a wonderful movie -- some of you may have seen it. But wehave a problem today that athletics could play a role in solving with theHispanic community, and I hope we'll get into this a little more in thelast section -- that is, what about all the athletes whose names you neverknow, who play in junior high or high school or college or even in thepros? And what about the rest of their lives? I hope we can talk aboutthat a little bit before we leave.
But last year, for the first time in modern history, the graduationrates from high school of African Americans and white Americans werevirtually identical -- the first time ever. The graduation rates ofHispanics is much lower; the dropout rate is higher. Part of that isbecause there has been a heritage in Hispanic immigrant families of kidsdropping out of school and going to work to support the family.
The problem is, today if you don't have a high school diploma and acouple years of college, it's hard to get a job where your income growsover time. So one of the things that I'm hoping is that we'll have moreHispanic young people in athletic programs and at least in high school;that will get more big coaches to convince them and their brothers andsisters to stay in high school and hopefully go on to college. BecauseAmerica is not going to function very well if we have a Hispanic dropoutrate that's 20 percent higher than the rest of society. (Applause.)
MR. LOPEZ: I agree with the President, because that's one of mypoints of view. As a basketball player, I just try to use my basketballskill just not to be a basketball player, I want to be someone in lifebesides a basketball player. I want people to see me not just, oh, that'sthe guy that played basketball. Obviously, I go to school and I'm gettingeducated because I want people to respect me, not just for the individualthat I am.
And for myself, I just try to use my knowledge to enrich a lot ofindependent kids, to a lot of Spanish-speaking people, especially in thearea of New York and other areas -- to see not just the -- of being betterby just trying to go to school, just trying to get themselves better, justtrying to find themselves -- not just a job, just to survive right there.To try to see the future. Because if we see ourselves in the great future,we're going to be a greater community.
MR. LEY: Do you feel a special burden because there are so fewHispanic basketball players? You're going to be visible next year as arookie. You're going to be drafted in two and a half months. Do you feelthat?
MR. LOPEZ: I feel like I'm one of the few. And basically, it's likeI say -- I just try to use any type of opportunity for me to spread myselfout, basically to get a better idea, to get more information to thosepeople who are there. Obviously, not everyone got the same talent. Formyself, I feel that if I get the opportunity to play in the pro league, I'mgoing to be one of the great influences to give back to my community. Why?Because in order for me to be successful, I have gotten the help from a lotof people in my community.
MR. LEY: Okay. Let's go outside here for a quick question.
Q Good evening. My name is Martin Garcia. I'm from Jesse H. JonesSenior High School. And my question goes to Mr. John Moores. Mr. Moores,the majority of Hispanic players are from foreign countries. Why isn'tanyone doing anything to promote Little League in the inner cities?
MR. MOORES: That's a good question. Actually, baseball is doing alot currently and something that I'm real proud of. When I was a kid, alot more baseball was played than it is today, and there may be a lot ofreasons for that, but baseball is a great game. It, as someone once said,can be played by people that are not 7' tall or 7' wide. More like a lotof Americans. And I think the country has lost something as more kids donot play baseball.
In my adopted state of California, that state has not done a very goodjob of keeping kids in middle school active in sports and it's a shame.Nothing would make me any happier than to see a lot more kids playingLittle League, Pony League baseball.
MR. LEY: Let's hold up on the numbers, Joe. I know what you want tosay. Go ahead.
MR. MORGAN: Well, to answer his question a little further, baseballdoes have a program called RBI. But in my opinion, that is not sufficient,because when you look at what baseball has done in foreign countries --they built academies in foreign countries to find athletes to play in majorleague baseball. Yet, we haven't tapped all the resources that we have inthis country -- in the inner cities.
I'm often asked the question of why there are fewer African Americansin major league baseball now than there were 15 years ago percentage-wise.The answer is there are not any black scouts hired by major league teams;they're not any academies like basketball -- they have clinics in the innercities to give these kids an opportunity to know that they're wanted.Baseball has not reached out to the African American in the inner cities inthe last few years.
If they were to have more African American scouts, you would see moreof the Willie Mayses come out of the inner city because people would feellike there is an opportunity for them. But major league baseball haschosen to spend their money overseas -- they've built academies in a lot ofdifferent countries, and that's fine.
I think everyone should have the opportunity to play major leaguebaseball. But I think there are resources here in this country that wehave not tapped. I have personally dealt with Leonard Coleman, theNational League President, sent him resumes of a lot of kids who haveplayed minor league baseball, did not reach the major leagues, but want tostay in baseball. I sent him their resumes. Leonard Coleman sent thoseresumes out to a lot of the major league teams, with assurances that thesekids were qualified to be major league scouts. Not one of those kids haveever been hired to be a major league scout. Therefore, we continue thesame process. And my point is without more African Americans going intomajor league baseball, the talent pool for managers, coaches, executives --which we have none -- you're not going to have that opportunity. We're notgoing to have that pool to choose from.
All the African Americans who have been given the opportunity inbaseball have been very successful as far as management is concerned. BobWatson won a world championship as the only African American generalmanager. Cito Gaston, all the managers who have been given opportunitieshave been successful. Yet, there has been a six-year interval period sincethey have hired another one before Jerry Manuel was hired.
So it's hard for me to say that major league baseball is doing a lotto help in the inner city when I look at what basketball has done and Nikein the inner city, and Michael Jordan and so forth and, of course, Jackie.But I just feel that baseball needs to do a little bit more. I stillbelieve that baseball is America's game --I still believe that. I mean, Istill believe that still should be our sport. And I just think that weneed to do a little bit more in the inner cities to give these kids anopportunity. And I think that needs to start with African American scouts.(Applause.)
MR. LEY: John, let me ask you this question -- I know you probablydon't know the entire flow-chart -- do you have any African American scoutswith the Padres?
MR. MOORES: You know, I do not know that.
MR. LEY: Honest answer, thank you.
MR. MOORES: But, you know, I'll tell you what, if we can get a WillieMays, we'll have a serious talk about it when I get back. (Laughter.)
MR. LEY: Mr President?
THE PRESIDENT: I just wanted to follow up on something Joe said andsomething that the questioner said because he made a slightly differentpoint. You know, we had one of the best World Series last year we've hadin a month of Sundays. I mean, everybody loved the World Series -- it goesdown to the last game, at the end of the game. And everybody was thrilledwith the story of the young Cuban pitcher and how his mother finally gotout of Cuba to come watch him pitch. And he's saying, but I've got abrother at home who's an even better pitcher than I am. And as strained asour relationships with Cuba are, it's virtually more likely that you can bea Cuban player in major league baseball than a Cuban American from Miami orNew Jersey.
And so it's not just African Americans. You've got all these HispanicAmericans here who are in inner cities. (Applause.) And we now have gotthe very exciting Asian -- Japanese players in major league baseball. ButAmerica is full of Asian immigrants. And, the baseball folks who are here,I really think that we haven't answered it fully. The truth is that thereare tens of thousands of kids in every state in this country who are not inany kind of athletic program unless they're in a football or basketballprogram.
Now, the mayor here and the former mayor, Mr. Lanier is also here, hestarted a program with thousands of inner city kids in soccer and golfprograms. (Applause.) And it may be that -- I'm just saying that maybeone specific thing that could come out of this meeting is if we couldactually bring baseball back to kids who aren't in the football orbasketball programs, it might be a great gift to the future.
MR. LEY: It's certainly a question that has been out there for thelast few years -- African American involvement in the major leagues. We'llget to that in just a second. We're dreadfully behind on breaks. We'regoing to take a break right now and continue in just a moment with our townmeeting -- the President and our panel talking race in sports, whetherwe're running in place. (Applause.)
MR. LEY: And welcome back to Houston. We continue our conversationon race in sports, whether we are running in place.
Little role reversal here, Keyshawn, you don't want to answer aquestion, you'd like to ask one. Go ahead.
MR. JOHNSON: I want to ask a couple of powers that be -- the athleticdirector, the owner of the Padres, and Mr. Policy --like, when I'm doneplaying professional sports I want to know when you guys are going to putsomething together to -- not only do we put money in your pocket asplayers, but when it's all over and said and done, put us in a position tobe the vice president of your team or in a power position to help otherminorities out.
MR. POLICY: Well, if I may start, Keyshawn I might remind you thatthe teams put some money in your pocket, too. (Laughter and applause).
MR. JOHNSON: I remember putting the money in the pocket when I putall that money in the university's pocket -- now, I'm not getting theeducation part of it. But that for so many years, the education part goesout the window when you're done athletically. They say they're trainingyour athletic skills for an education, but when we go back to theseuniversities to try and get hired as athletic directors or head coaches orany power position, nine times out of 10 the door is slammed, and you'renot given that opportunity. And that's the same way in professionalfootball.
Even though you put dollars, millions of dollars, in our pockets, itwouldn't be there if the television rights weren't there and the moneywasn't there for that. (Applause.) On top of that, I want to know why theowners -- we put this African American thing together to own a team, thesenew franchises coming up in the next few years. If an African Americanteam, an African American group put this money together, would we get theopportunity to put the team in Los Angeles or put the team in Cleveland?
MR. POLICY: Your question -- or Houston -- (applause) -- they'rewaiting for their Oilers. (Applause.) Your question sets the stage for apretty good analysis as to what's happening in the NFL today, and really, Ithink, that the President's initiative, and the country as a whole aregoing to be able to enjoy some victories that are going to be accomplishedin the area of race relations and the area of the advancement of minorities-- not only to the head coaching ranks, Coach Green, but also to the frontoffices of the NFL, to the executive positions, to the vice president'sdesk and offices, and to other positions where decisions are made.
I think that what you're witnessing is an age of awakening. We sortof drifted off into a slumber when we felt that there was no overt racism-- everybody's heart was pure. When I look and see a candidate in front ofme, I don't see a black candidate, a white candidate -- whoever is the mostqualified is going to get the job and our hearts, our souls were comforted,and we've kind of gotten lazy.
But the alarm clock went off. The alarm clock's gone off, and we nowrealize that there is a lack of opportunity that's created by a flawedprocess. So we've got to correct the process, and we're doing it in theNFL. The Commissioner has taken a very, very strong stand, and I think heis going to be successful -- not only because he is committed to thechanges that he wants to bring about, but because ownership is behind him athousand percent.
And just like the President's initiative on race, the perfect time isnow for the NFL to strike. We don't have a crisis within; we don't have acrisis without. We have labor peace. We have a very comfortable TVcontract -- thank you very much. (Applause.) We have a situation at hand,where we're now able to look internally and deal with our infrastructureand, in effect, repair it, give back, as the President said, because thenation has been so good to the NFL. We're the number one passion of sportsviewers in America. (Applause.)
Yes, Joe, even greater than baseball. (Laughter.) So let's notforget the good things that are happening. Positive things are occurring.We're having a meeting as you know, Denny, down in Florida in May. It's afirst in the history of the NFL, where not only the owners and topexecutives are getting together, but we're bringing approximately 200coaches -- not only head coaches, but coordinators and assistants. And forthe first time, this pool of talent is going to mix, truly mix, with thedecision-makers and create, Jackie, the kind of network you've been talkingabout.
So there's positive things happening, Mr. President. And I think thealarm went off -- we're up now, we're paying attention to it. To Keyshawn,I think you'll be playing for a lot of years, and apply for a job.(Laughter and applause).
MR. LEY: Let's go upstairs again to our balcony for another question.Your question upstairs, please.
Q Good evening to you, Mr. President, and other panel guests. Myname is Dennis S. Brown, and my question would probably go to KeyshawnJohnson. I recently heard an NFL quarterback state that he got so excitedafter one game that he decided to go in and shower with the black guys.And then the question was asked, are you saying that blacks and whitesdon't even shower together. And he said, well, for the most part, no. Myquestion is, is that true and if it is, what message is that sending?
MR. JOHNSON: I don't know what NFL quarterback that you heard, but,obviously, he's not educated to the fullest. Whoever it is that's outthere, he's left out somewhere in the cold because we all shower together-- (laughter) -- you set me up. I mean, you know, for the most part,everybody mingles in the locker room. On every team, there's sections --whether it's black, white, Hispanic, whatever it is -- individuals mix.You know, you especially mix in a locker room. Off the field, you do whatyou want to do, you be around whom you want to be around. But in terms ofthe New York Jets locker room -- and that's the only professional lockerroom I've been in -- there was nothing ever said around my locker room thathad anything to do with race, other than jokingly statements. And we allunderstand that is jokingly. And sometimes that can offend certainindividuals, but at the same time, we do know it is jokingly.
MR. LEY: All right, we were at this point supposed to be wrappingthings up, but the President has graciously agreed to spend a little bitmore time with us this evening, so we'll have a chance to ask some more andanswer some more questions. (Applause.) THE PRESIDENT: That little boy --
MR. LEY: We're going to him.
Q My name is Jesse. I'm 13 years old, and I'm half MexicanAmerican and half Irish. This question is for Mr. Morgan. I was wonderingthat since it's almost impossible to make it big in professional sports, Iwas wondering do you discourage minority youth in trying to achieve thisgoal in sports and instead, encourage them, more towards making theirstudies in school work? (Applause.)
MR. MORGAN: My answer is that both mix very well. You can playathletics, but you have to think about school, just like Keyshawn said. Hegot an education going to college; now he plays professional sports. Afterprofessional sports, he can use that education to further his lifestyle andto improve his lifestyle even. But I never discourage a kid from trying tochase his dream of being a major league baseball player or a professionalathlete. But I think it's up to you -- the kid -- and the parents to makesure that they do their studying and get their education because educationis far more important and will last longer than the claps you get forhitting the homerun or scoring a touchdown. (Applause.) But I neverdiscourage a kid from trying to be a professional athlete. I think theycan go hand in hand. I'm very fortunate I was able to play professionalbaseball, but I also have a college degree. So you can do both.
MR. THOMPSON: Well, I think it's very important. You know, I get alittle fed up hearing people say that it's very important for kids to getan education. Very few people in our society educate themselves for thesake of enrichment. They educate themselves for the sake of opportunity.And if we provide an opportunity, people will be educated. (Applause.) Soit's notit's a little bit ridiculous. (Applause.)
People strive, blacks strive to be athletes because that's what theysee. That's what that little Hispanic kid was saying up there when heindicated that you're not talking about me, I don't see me, I'm not goingto go get an education if I don't see me. (Applause.) And I think it'svery foolish and a lot of wasted time when we harp on people getting aneducation if we don't provide them with opportunity. We don't do that. Idon't educate myself for anything that I can't make a dollar from. Andthat's what you do. (Applause.)
And I think that we've got to stop living this dream. These kidsaren't stupid in the street. I mean, if you see -- if I have anopportunity to be the President of the United States, I'm going to go outand work to be the President of the United States. I know damn well Ican't be the President of the United States -- (laughter) -- so I'm notgoing to do it. But I also will not work hard in school if I'm in aposition where I cannot be a professor at a university, or I cannot be abasketball coach. So it is really fruitless for us to keep harping as ifpeople aren't interested. They're interested in education, but we've gotto have opportunity. (Applause.)
MR. LEY: Okay. Let's get this question out here. Go ahead please.
Q Good evening, my name is Tiffany Singleton. I'm a 17-year-oldsenior at a high school in Houston. My question is for Mrs. JackieJoyner-Kersee. Mrs. Kersee, I am a female African American honor studentat my high school and oftentimes I'm burdened with the obligation to carrythe expectations of both my race and my sex. As a female African Americanand sports star, do you ever -- and also as the only female upon the panel-- do you ever feel -- (applause) -- have you ever felt the obligation tocarry the expectations of an African American and also as a female?
MS. JOYNER-KERSEE: Thanks for the question. For me, it's just as aperson, I try to do my best. And I try to live up to my own expectations.I know what it is my family asks of me and what I try to do, but I've nevertried to put myself in a pressured situation or try to do more than what Iam. What you see is what you get. I don't try to be someone else and Idon't try to live out someone else's dreams or be someone else. I go outthere and do what I can do. I know the things that I'm capable of handlingand I try not to put myself in a position where I can't handle certainthings.
So, as a woman, yes, I try to work hard to make my dreams become areality. These are the things that I worked for and these are the goalsthat I set for myself and now I'm going to find a way to attain those goalsand make my dream become a reality. So I know I am in a position, but Ialso realize, too, that I want to be in a position where I can make adifference. And I want to make sure that, while I am the only woman here,I pray and hope that I do a good job so there will be other women, so otherwomen can be here as well, and the doors will continue to open.(Applause.)
Q My name is Matt Sharp. I'm a junior at Elks Lake High School.Mr. President, as a young man about to enter college in the next few years,one of the things that's very important to me is scholarship opportunities.And I was wondering -- my question is, do you believe it is fair forminority athletes who have not necessarily done poorly academically, butaverage to poorly, and have relatively low SAT scores to be givenscholarships over those white students that are not athletes who haveexcelled academically and have relatively high SAT scores?
THE PRESIDENT: Let me answer the question. I had a problem inCalifornia when they voted -- and California has been very good to me, butthe people and I disagree with these things -- (laughter). Californiavoted to repeal their affirmative action admissions policy. And I made theargument that they would give a minority athlete a scholarship under thenew system because of his or her athletic ability and have another memberof a minority group who had higher grades and higher SAT scores, but noathletic ability couldn't get a scholarship. So it wasn't just a raceissue.
Let me say what I think about that. First of all, I think college anduniversities have a right to have athletic programs and they have torecruit if they want to have them. The real issue is we should have asystem in America, since we now know that it is necessary to have at leasttwo years of education after high school if you want to have even a goodjob with a growing income for younger people, and it's better -- we have avested interest of the nation in seeing that every young person like yougets to go to college. What I've tried to do is make sure that money wouldnever be an obstacle to anyone, and that's really ultimately the way toresolve that. Every college and university has to make up its mind, dothey want to have an athletic program; then they'll want to compete for thebest athletes -- they're going to do that. But it should never, ever be atthe expense of providing academic opportunities to people who arequalified.
Let me just say, since I've been in office, we passed a HOPEScholarship, which gives everybody a $1,500 tax credit for the first twoyears of college, tuition and tax credits for junior and senior year andgraduate school. We've got more Pell Grants, more work-study positions,more national service positions -- we've got more opportunity. (Applause.)And, I think -- I'll say this -- for me, that's the answer. I don't think-- otherwise, a college simply can't have an athletic program or recruitits athletes.
My view is they ought to be able to recruit athletes, but they oughtto give enough scholarships so that every young, gifted person who can getadmitted to the school should be able to go without regard to the moneythat they or their families have. That's what I believe. (Applause.)
MR. LEY: We have to go. I've got to take a break. I answer to ahigher master at this moment, so we're going to step aside for just asecond and come back with our final moments of our town meeting live herein Houston. (Applause.)
MR. LEY: And our final moments. John Thompson, you wanted tocontinue the discussion, the question -- young man painted it as a zero sumgame on scholarships of athletes versus scholarship for academics.
MR. THOMPSON: Well, first of all, I respect the young man an awfullot for asking the question because I think that's what these meeting areabout. However, I think I need to bring to his attention that the athleteis not the only one that gets special preference. If your folks have a lotof money, you get special preference in university. (Applause.) If youare a son or daughter of an alumnus, you get special preference. So oursociety is about special preferences. The athlete markets his talent andthat's what America is about. (Applause.)
MR. LEY: We've come to this point, the evening has flown by. We'veeven gone a little over time. Mr. President, we're just about -- with afew minutes left, I know you'd like to summarize your thoughts on thisevening of what you've heard and what you may have learned tonight.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I feel better about my country than I did beforewe started. And I think all of you do, don't you? (Applause.)
I want to applaud the panelists for their candor and their honesty. Iwant to thank the members of the audience for the questions that wereasked.
I want to say just two things. Number one, I think it's obvious thatathletics in a way is leading America toward a more harmonious, unitedsociety, but we still have work to do -- in the coaching ranks, and themanagement, and the scouting and all of that. We ought to keeping workingon it.
The second thing I'd like to say is, I hope that everybody who's in anathletic program also learns good life skills to make good choices, gooddecisions; can take something out of the teamwork, the rules of things thatyou get from being in athletics so that if they play in high school but notin college that they're still better off and they're better citizens.
The same thing if they play in college, not in pros. The same thingwhen they finish their pro career. We didn't talk much about that tonight,but I think that's important -- that the lessons learned from athleticscarry over into good citizenship, including attitudes about people ofdifferent races. If that happens, we're going to be a lot better of.(Applause.)
MR. LEY: Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. We appreciateyour being here tonight and adding to this dialogue. Your race initiativehas talked about a need for a national dialogue, and as we said, we had itfor a period -- if only a brief period -- and I thank you, our panelists.Thanks to our audience for their questions, and thanks to everyone at home.The ESPN Town Meeting from Houston, whether we are running in place.(Applause.)