Charles Barkley (Citizen Barkley, March 11) is good for the black community, I believe. I'm an African-American professional who feels that there are still different sets of rules for blacks and whites in America, and that Charles is a racist person's worst nightmare because he's not afraid to speak his mind on racism. I was very troubled, however, by the picture on the cover. I don't like the fact that Charles did the shackled cover, but for SI to come up with the idea was in bad taste. Anyone who would think of this cover is a person who still thinks of black people as slaves. I think you just proved Charles's point.
VINCENT S. RONEY, Coraopolis, Pa.
My seven-year-old asked me why the man on the cover was in chains. I handed him the issue and explained that when slavery was practiced in this country, we treated black people that way. He said "Oh, and the chains are broken because we no longer do that." Jack McCallum's excellent article and Walter Iooss Jr.'s disturbing photo make this point beautifully.
DAVID HANKINS, Mechanicsburg, Pa.
That's just what Alabama needs: a racist, gambling, swearing governor who throws in the occasional sexist comment.
CRAIG MITCHELL, Sykesville, Md.
Charles, getting people to talk openly about racial issues in a down-to-earth fashion is a great feat. Charging racism is counterproductive to your candor.
CHRIS GRIFFIN, Kennesaw, Ga.
As a professor of biology at a university, I have many black students working very hard to become doctors, microbiologists and environmental specialists. Charles, if you visit, I will introduce you to them. You might learn something.
L. SCOTT JOHNSON, Baltimore
Barkley is an arrogant, rich talking head who loves the spotlight, parties and golf. In addition he expects other people to work hard so he can look good and be successful. With these qualities, Sir Charles has all the makings of a great politician. If only he weren't so honest.
DAN DEMING La Habra, Calif.
On the cover, Charles Barkley didn't trivialize slavery, he personalized it.
JOSEPH WRIGHT Mitchellville, Md.
Regarding the cover: Just when do you believe Barkley was shackled?
DAVID GOODKIN, Thousand Oaks, Calif.
More on Smokeless
I am a professor of pathology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and I conduct research on the risks of tobacco use. Rick Reilly has strong opinions about smokeless tobacco (THE LIFE OF REILLY, March 18), but unfortunately his views are based on incorrect information that was apparently provided by the National Spit Tobacco Education Program. As a sports reporter Mr. Reilly can be excused, but NSTEP should know better. Your readers (and major league baseball players) deserve correct information. Reilly writes that smokeless users have "50 times the chance to get oral cancer as" nonusers of smokeless tobacco. The number 50 properly refers only to an extremely rare type of cancer. The correct number for all oral cancer is four, and it applies mainly to people using smokeless for more than 40 years. Our research has documented that the health impact of this small risk is minimal. For example, a 35-year-old baseball player who uses smokeless tobacco will live on average only 15 days less than his tobacco-free teammate. In contrast, the ballplayer who smokes will lose on average eight years of life. Quite simply, smokeless tobacco is 98% safer than smoking and about as safe as driving an automobile. Reilly claims that people who have tried quitting both have said, "quitting spit tobacco is twice as hard as quitting cigarettes." In fact, while all tobacco contains nicotine, a very addictive drug, there is simply no evidence in the scientific literature to support the notion that smokeless is more addictive than smoking. This is a myth promulgated by "quit-or-die" anti-tobacco zealots to discourage smokers from switching to smokeless. Reilly starts his column with the horrific image of "cancerous white lesions forming inside the players' tobacco-caked lips." NSTEP claims that 21 ballplayers from last year's exams appeared to have cancerous or precancerous lesions. SI readers will be surprised to learn that the average age of the (rare) person with smokeless-associated oral cancer is 78 years. NSTEP health professionals should know this. Finally, Reilly adopts the derogatory NSTEP term "spit tobacco." Alcoholics Anonymous does not call itself Booze-Hounds Anonymous. It is ironic that a health-based organization whose stated mission is "to help all [smokeless] users to quit" would use in its name a term that is so demeaning and degrading toward those whom it claims to assist.
BRAD RODU, Birmingham
I couldn't agree with Seth Davis more (INSIDE COLLEGE BASKETBALL, March H). For teams in one-bid conferences, their entire season really comes down to how they do in three league tournament games. Why? So their conference can get one stinking game on ESPN. That the Ivy League awards its automatic NCAA bid to the regular-season champion rather than to the team that won its last three is only fair to the players who outplayed everyone else over a 10-week span.
JULIAN KWAN, Arlington, Va.