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As always, nothing in South Africa is simple. On the surface, the government's decision to reduce racism in sport was as welcome as it was long overdue. Anything that will help to bring the races together in peace, harmony and goodwill is a resounding plus.
But leaders of nonwhite sports associations in South Africa were less than ecstatic in their reaction. The new policy, while allowing competition between teams of different races, still encourages whites, Africans, "coloreds" and Indians to belong to separate clubs.
"This is not what we have been striving for," said Abdullah Abass, president of a nonwhite rugby association. "Our demand is for nonracial sport." Cuthbert Loriston, leader of another nonwhite rugby group, said the new policy was "a change for the whites, but there is nothing new for us in the announcement." A nonwhite cricket official named Hassan Howsa said he and his associates would reject the policy, declaring that what South Africa needs is a free flow of players among clubs regardless of race.
Even so, the new policy is a significant step forward, if only because it is an admission by a repressive government that its restrictive policies are wrong.
THE DOCTOR AND THE DILEMMA
Julius Erving's insistence, just before training camp began, that his long-term contract with the New York Nets should be renegotiated aroused a good deal of furor. Erving was charged with greed, lack of respect for the sanctity of a contract and so on, while Nets Owner Roy Boe was called cheap, shortsighted and ungrateful, particularly after Erving's abrasive agent, Irwin Weiner, declared that at least 25 players in the NBA were earning more than the incomparable Dr. J.
The truth is, both Erving and Boe have been caught in the gears of expansion and inflation. When Erving signed his $1.9-million, seven-year contract with Boe and the Nets in 1973, it was considered a generous, even extravagant, deal. Under it, Erving could earn nearly $300,000 this season. But pro basketball salaries have gone sky-high since Erving signed that contract. Nate (Tiny) Archibald, recently obtained by Boe from Kansas City, reportedly makes $400,000 annually. As good as Archibald is, he is hardly worth $100,000 more a year than Erving. A prime reason why the NBA agreed to the merger with the ABA was the anticipation of Erving's presence in NBA games and on NBA telecasts. Taking all this into account, Julius is worth everything he is asking for.
But look at Boe's position. In going after Erving, Archibald and others, he has obviously tried to build the best team possible. Indeed, his Nets won the ABA's final championship last spring, and they are sure to be a leading attraction in the NBA this season. Yet, under NBA rules and the terms of the merger, Boe will not share in gate receipts at away games, he will not get a cut of the league's lucrative TV income until 1980 and he is paying $4 million to the New York Knicks as indemnity for the Nets' territorial encroachment as well as another $3.2 million just to join the NBA.
Erving deserves a new contract. Boe will be hard pressed to meet its terms. Because the "old 18" clubs of the NBA stand to benefit most from Dr. J's presence, is it unreasonable to suggest that they get together and work out a method to underwrite the added cost?