DeBartolo Steps Down
Eddie DeBartolo resigned as head of the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 2 after it was revealed that he had become a secondary target in a federal investigation of former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards. The wide-ranging probe—undercover FBI agents even served as the crew on a plane that Edwards chartered for a return trip from Colorado this year—seized at least $450,000 from the offices and safe deposit box of Edwards and his son, Stephen. Of that sum, $400,000 had allegedly been sent by DeBartolo last April, in cash, to retain Edwards's services as a consultant on a proposed $194 million riverboat casino to be based in Bossier City, La.
As of Monday it was unclear what charges, if any, could be brought against DeBartolo. Edwards's lawyer, Mike Fawer, says the $400,000 payment was made to his client, but he would not specify when it was made or what it was for. Edwards held no public office at the time the money was allegedly paid, so DeBartolo cannot be charged with bribery. "DeBartolo never asked me or intimated or suggested that I do anything improper, out of line or unethical," Edwards told the Baton Rouge Advocate. On Monday, DeBartolo's lawyer, Jack Martzell, declined comment to SI on the alleged payment.
Vowing he would return as soon as possible to the team he has owned for 21 years, DeBartolo, 51, said last week, "They don't have anything on me. I'm innocent." Why, then, did he leave the helm of the 49ers before he was even indicted? The likely answer lies in his desire to protect Candlestick Mills, the DeBartolo Corp.'s $525 million stadium and mall project in San Francisco. Debate before the June 3 referendum on the complex was stormy, and the vote was close—it passed by just 1,500 votes—and there have been allegations of election improprieties against the city. By stepping down DeBartolo hopes to separate his legal troubles from the squabbling over the project. The 49ers and Candlestick Mills are now under the control of DeBartolo's younger sister, Denise DeBartolo York, a 50% owner of the Niners who last week became their chairwoman, and 49ers president Carmen Policy.
As DeBartolo's involvement with the Niners has diminished in recent years, Policy has filled in capably and has even been mentioned as a potential NFL commissioner. Rumors that DeBartolo wasn't getting along with Policy, and that he would have phased Policy out if the stadium vote had failed, were denied by both men. At a press conference last week Policy already looked every bit the man in charge. Noted one 49er, "It's amazing how unable he was to contain his enthusiasm."
Dan Quayle Lives
While presenting Pat Summitt, coach of the five-time NCAA champion Lady Volunteers basketball team, with a civic award last week, Knoxville mayor Victor Ashe noted that "in her 23 years at Tennessee, she has won three NAACP championships."
Golf a la Cart
PGA, meet DMV. Casey Martin, who suffers from Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome, a congenital circulatory condition, in his lower right leg, was granted a temporary injunction against the PGA Tour that allowed him to ride in a golf cart for last week's PGA tour qualifier in Haines City, Fla. The PGA says walking is part of the game, but Martin, 25, says he deserves a shot at his dream despite being legally handicapped. Driving hasn't been this big a Tour issue since the advent of the metal wood.
Martin's six-round score of 425 was not good enough to make him one of the 38 golfers who earned a Tour card, but he plans to compete on the Nike tour, where PGA Tour rules prevail, so the cart debate is only now getting revved up. If Martin gets to ride, would players with other medical conditions? If so, Tour veteran Blaine McCallister says, "there are going to be a lot of guys coming down with some serious back injuries."
Most purists say stamina is part of the game and cringe at the thought of traffic jams on the Tour fairways. "I hope that the Tour remains walking only," says Scott Verplank. (Verplank was one of about 15 competitors, out of 168, who took advantage of the PGA's ruling that allowed anyone to ride at the qualifier; to allay concerns over the unfair advantage of shade and shelter, the carts' roofs were detached.) "Nothing against Casey, but everybody's got problems. I've got diabetes; I've had three elbow surgeries. Nobody said it was fair."