College basketball's rule makers have succumbed to the same AIDS hysteria that hounded Magic Johnson out of the NBA. Not content with a requirement that a bloodied player must leave a game and not return until the wound is treated, the NCAA men's and women's basketball rules committees have also decreed that an athlete with a blood-stained uniform may return only if he or she puts on a clean uniform or if the bloodied uniform is washed with a disinfectant.
In the face of this ruling, a review of the relevant facts about AIDS and sports seems in order. According to AIDS experts, the risk of contracting HIV, the virus that causes the disease, through contact during sports is infinitesimal. Of the 10 million-plus adult HIV-positive cases reported in the dozen years since AIDS was identified, there has been perhaps one involving infection through sports, and that case—of an amateur soccer player who butted heads with an HIV-positive opponent during a game in Italy in 1989—is in dispute. One expert suggests that an athlete would run a greater risk of getting struck by lightning while standing in a field on a sunny day than of being infected by HIV during a game; transmission of the virus through a bloodied uniform, AIDS authorities say, is almost inconceivable.
The fear that athletes might contract HIV on the playing field is fueled by the several documented cases of health-care workers who have become infected by handling blood, but Dr. David Rogers, a professor of medicine at Cornell who is vice-chairman of the National Commission on AIDS, says, "In the health-care cases, the infection in virtually every instance was caused by the transmission of large amounts of blood through hollow-bore needles. With cuts or scratches, the risk is as close to zero as possible. When two people bleed, they bleed out, not in. It's hard to imagine an exchange of enough blood to cause infection."
An NCAA spokesman says that the organization would prefer to err on the side of caution, but the new rule is not as benign as that sounds. Making athletes cleanse or change their uniforms during games only reinforces the image of the HIV-afflicted as lepers to be shunned in the classroom and workplace as well as in sports. It also shifts the focus from the primary causes of AIDS: unprotected sex with infected partners or the sharing of intravenous needles. As Rogers says, "All the energy and attention being concentrated on what players do on the court or on the field, where the chance is virtually zero of contracting the disease, diverts attention from what they do off the field, where the risk is a billion times greater."
Whole Lot of W's
At season's start there were two Division III football teams with 500 or more wins—Wittenberg and Widener. Now there are three more. Washington and Jefferson is one of them, having joined the elite by beating Widener. Williams is another, thanks to a win over Wesleyan. The third is Franklin and Marshall, which wouldn't belong in this item except that its milestone W occurred at home on Williamson Field against Western Maryland.
Block That Schott
Some people might think of Cincinnati Red owner Marge Schott as a lovable buffoon, but there's nothing endearing about the evidence of bigotry on her part that emerged during a lawsuit brought against her by a former team employee who claimed he had been wrongly fired. The suit was dismissed last week, but not before the plaintiff and two other former Red employees alleged in depositions that Schott had made racist comments—for example, calling former Cincinnati outfielder Dave Parker "that dumb nigger"—and making cracks about "sneaky goddam Jews." In a deposition taken last December, Schott admitted using the word nigger and that it was "possible" she had referred to Martin Luther King Day as "Nigger Day." She also said she kept a swastika armband in her home and couldn't understand why a former employee of hers, who is Jewish, had taken offense. When asked whether she told that employee that " Hitler might have had the right idea," Schott answered, "I don't really know."
Schott's remarks were even more offensive than the statement made by then Los Angeles Dodger general manager Al Campanis on TV in 1987 that blacks lacked "the necessities" to be managers or general managers. Campanis lost his job over that comment, and Schott could—and should—be fined or suspended under the "best interests of baseball" clause by de facto commissioner Bud Selig (who is Jewish) or otherwise disciplined by National League president Bill White (who is black). At week's end a subdued Schott met with a group of black and Jewish leaders in Cincinnati, apologized for her remarks and even indicated that she might address the Reds' abysmal front-office minority-hiring record.
George S. vs. George S.