Former Cleveland Browns great Jim Brown says he's considering withdrawing from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, to which he was elected in 1971, because he believes the hall's 30-member board of selectors is racist. He complains that the board, an entrenched group of sports journalists, some of them chosen by the hall, has kept out deserving black stars like John Mackey.
Brown shouldn't pull out, or shouldn't be allowed to. But he makes a good point in raising the question of race—just 32 of 155 Hall of Famers are black—and he's particularly on target in labeling Mackey's absence from Canton an injustice. Mackey, a five-time Pro Bowler for the Colts and Chargers in the 1960s and early '70s, defined the tight end position. After Bears coach Mike Ditka, also a superb tight end, was elected to the hall in '88, Ditka said, "I don't understand how I got in before John Mackey."
One suspects that in the hall voting, Mackey's union activity may have worked against him as much as his color did. Mackey was president of the NFL Players Association in his playing days, and his name was on an NFLPA lawsuit that challenged the league's restrictions on player movement between teams. If anything, those off-the-field contributions make Mackey even more of a historic figure in the sport. It's a pity that the hall's board doesn't see it that way.
BY THE BOOK
Octavio Meyran, the referee accused of giving Buster Douglas a long count in the Douglas-Tyson fight, appears in the WBC referee training manual and videotape. In both, he demonstrates proper refereeing techniques, including how to count out a downed fighter.
The Association of Tennis Professionals needs to put a lid on appearance payments. Two weeks ago at a tournament in San Francisco, the first U.S. stop on the new ATP tour, Brad Gilbert and Andre Agassi, the event's No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, were paid a total of $205,000 just to show up. No other players got any appearance money. Agassi, whose share of the appearance pot was reported to have been at least $150,000, earned only $32,400 for winning the tournament.
Gilbert, the world's fourth-ranked player, got his fee even though he lost in straight sets in the first round to 128th-ranked Gary Muller. That scarcely qualifies as an appearance. Poor Todd Witsken, meanwhile, who made it to the finals, earned just $19,090, the second-place purse.
Appearance fees diminish the incentive to win. That's why they were barred under rules of the old Grand Prix tour. But many tournament directors ignored that ban. They needed to dole out appearance money to attract big-name players to their events, so they paid the fees under the table.
The ATP has brought appearance fees out into the open. It is allowing 54 of the 78 events on its tour—the 54 that aren't designated as championship series events and thus aren't guaranteed top-name players—to pay appearance fees. ATP chief executive officer Hamilton Jordan argues that marquee players deserve financial guarantees because they draw fans to tournaments.
That may be so, but do they deserve so much? At the San Francisco tournament, there was nearly as much appearance money paid out as prize money ($250,000). In the case of Gilbert, it was money largely wasted.