Last week at the Berkeley campus of the University of California, Negro scholarship athletes released a series of demands that brings into the open a wide area of discontent probably applying to the framework of sport at many American universities.
Called a "Resolution of Black Athletes," the statement called for the firing of three coaches for incompetence and inability to relate to black athletes, the firing of a business manager accused of assigning black athletes inferior summer jobs, and the elimination of "quotas" on scholarships to black athletes. It said that black athletes had been subjected to derogatory comments because of their appearance, had been accused of goldbricking when too injured to compete, had been left to fend for themselves to find housing and had received poor academic counseling because it was assumed they lacked intelligence. The resolution demanded the hiring of "coaches of a minority background."
The situation that triggered the resolution was, in essence, friction between the 11 white and five black players on Cal's basketball team and, in particular, the feelings of Bob Presley, the team's Negro center and high scorer. Presley has several times called his coach, Rene Herrerias, incompetent. He was suspended for missing practices and, according to some reports, for refusing to get his hair cut. Presley has said the play of the Negroes on the team was not properly appreciated by the press or by Herrerias. Negro players began to refer to one white player as a honky, and whites, in turn, began to give the Negroes less opportunity to score and play well in games.
Some of these claims are petty, but the resolution raises other issues that are not petty at all. The question of Negro quotas, the charge that Negroes malinger over injuries, and the assertion that they are considered and treated as paid employees at colleges have long been talked about—but never publicly. At issue, too, is the college-perpetuated myth that such athletes are students first; that their sport is an avocation. Schools such as California are particularly vulnerable in this area, for they must account, with a straight face, for their admission of athletes, Negro and white alike, whose only qualifications for college entrance are their athletic skills.
Bob Presley, for example, was expelled from or dropped out of three different Detroit high schools, and was then imported with other Negro athletes to a Salinas, Calif. school for one semester where his marks were mostly "below average." He attended two junior colleges and another high school before showing up at Cal. This is the same kind of disadvantaged background shared by many athletes on college teams.
The Negro threat to boycott the athletic program at Berkeley is a move for recognition that has the inherent weakness of allowing the college to say, "Go ahead," since cutting a basketball game is not the same as cutting classes. But the points raised by the Negroes have considerable validity—even if the proposed boycott does not. The situation at the University of California presumably will simmer down, but the discontent manifested by the "Resolution of Black Athletes" is of immediate concern to all colleges.
Two Sundays ago a New Zealand country lawyer on his first attempt at big-game fishing lost a swordfish after fighting it for 32 hours. The fish towed Donal Heatley and a 12-ton, 40-foot charter boat one whole day and well into the next night on a zig-zag 70-mile course from the northeastern tip of Mayor Island to the Alderman Islands, where the 120-pound test line finally broke. Experienced fishermen on the boat estimated the swordfish weighed somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 pounds (the world record is 1,182).
Heatley wore through two pairs of gloves during the battle, and his friends had to stuff crumpled magazines between his back and the fighting-chair harness when it began to cut into him. They fed him ham sandwiches, tomatoes and cans of beer.