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The murder of Senator Kennedy is leading to an intense reexamination of our society, of which sport is an important segment; it gives form and substance, generally for the better, to much in American life, and there is no reason why it should escape scrutiny.
Young people are the most vocal in their dissatisfaction with the times. If sport should provide youth with ideals—and the late Senator believed that it certainly should—flagrant materialism must not be allowed to dominate it. Last week the British soccer star, Danny Blanch-flower, called sport "a wonderfully democratic thing, one of the few honorable battlefields left" (SI, June 10), but he also said commercialism was distorting the world's most popular game.
Elsewhere, is there reason to believe that some of the ills plaguing urban America have come from destruction of the natural environment? Have countless Americans become alienated from the real, living world by misdirected technological "progress"? These are questions that have been, and will continue to be, of deep concern to this magazine.
But grimmest and most urgent of the issues is the racial crisis that racks the nation and is believed by many to be at the root of the violence that is causing so much grief and shame. Sport was one of the very first areas of society to offer the American Negro recognition, respect and economic advantage. But are Negroes treated with more fairness in sport than in society at large? Have the achievements of Negro athletes been beneficial to Negroes as a whole? Have sports drawn the races together, or have they made Negroes feel exploited? These and related questions will be answered next month in this magazine in a thorough—and startling—survey.
THE THREE-YEAR ITCH
If all goes as Wilt Chamberlain hopes, it is likely that he will play next year for a West Coast team—possibly the Lakers or, if not Los Angeles, then perhaps the Seattle SuperSonics. Chamberlain wants to leave Philadelphia, and as early as March 1967 he used an intermediary to inform Owner Jack Kent Cooke that he was interested in coming to Los Angeles. Wilt's family lives there, and it is a close-knit group, made even closer, perhaps, because Wilt's father has been recuperating from a serious illness. Chamberlain wants to play on the Coast so badly that he might threaten to open negotiations with the L.A. Stars of the ABA if the 76ers cannot make a good deal for him. He has long claimed his contract has no reserve clause in it.
A close contact of Wilt's maintains that the $200,000-plus superstar has been personally in touch with Cooke. The owner emphatically denies this, but he does say he sees no reason why Wilt, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West could not all work together on the same team. In any case, Cooke is "unequivocal" in declaring that neither West nor Baylor will ever be traded from the Lakers. Therefore, if either the Lakers or Seattle gets Wilt, the 76ers must settle for lesser players and draft choices in return.
The 76ers may not care. For the first time team officials have shown some dissatisfaction with their sensitive star. Owner Irv Kosloff, a shy and unobtrusive man, acknowledged that he was hurt when Wilt charged he extended negotiations "because it puts his name in the paper." General Manager Jack Ramsay, admitting overtures have been made toward Wilt, says the team just cannot afford to pay him any more money.