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ON THE WRONG COURSE
The Atlantic Coast Conference has exercised poor judgment in its choice of sites for its annual golf tournament. For the past four years the mid-April tournament has been held at Northgreen Country Club in Rocky Mount, N.C., an arrangement that has become the subject of a crusade by Steve Rogers, a black man who owns a house overlooking the club's 2nd fairway. Angry over Northgreen's admittedly restrictive racial policies, Rogers has argued that the ACC reinforces discrimination by holding its tournament at the club. During this year's tournament he posted protest signs on his lawn that were visible to the golfers. One of the signs read: RACCIST.
ACC Commissioner Bob James has reacted coolly to Rogers' complaints. In a letter to Rogers last January in which he claimed to have conducted a "thorough review" of the allegations of discrimination at the club, James said that the ACC's deal to use the Northgreen course runs through 1986 and that "in the absence of some very compelling reasons, we would not feel justified in breaching the agreement. Certainly, we would not use the facilities if we thought Northgreen Country Club was engaged in racial discrimination, but we believe that this is not the case."
Northgreen is more liberal in its racial policies than some country clubs, less liberal than others. Blacks play the Northgreen course as members of industrial and school leagues and can eat at the club if they're attending private parties. Although there are no black golfers currently on ACC teams, Northgreen has said that blacks would be welcome during the conference tournament. Still, Northgreen has never had a black member, and some of its practices are clearly discriminatory. Rogers, a commodity agent for one of the largest firms in the area, Consolidated Diesel Company, learned this firsthand in 1981 after availing himself of his firm's corporate membership by having lunch in the club's dining room. Rogers says his boss later received a call from a Northgreen official who wanted to "refresh" him on the club's rules against blacks eating in the dining room; the club official said that Rogers had been served only to avoid an incident. Not long afterward, says Rogers, another black employee of Consolidated Diesel, George Henning, the firm's materials director, was rejected for membership at Northgreen; 42 other employees of the company, all of them white, had previously applied and all had been accepted.
Neither Rogers nor Henning was interviewed in connection with the ACC's "thorough review." But The Nashville (N.C.) Graphic recently interviewed an unnamed Northgreen official who indicated that the club was "not ready" for black members. With regard specifically to Henning, Earl Elingburg, Northgreen's general manager, conceded to SI's Bob Sullivan that Henning was a worthy candidate for membership but had been rejected "for whatever reason." Elingburg also confirmed Rogers' account of the club's reaction to the latter's having eaten there. "Our policy is, we don't sit blacks in our dining room in one-on-one, two-on-one or whatever situations," Elingburg said. He also said he was certain that the ACC office "knew all about" this policy.
Confronted by SI with this evidence, Marvin Francis, an aide to James, backed away from James's assertion that Northgreen didn't discriminate. Francis instead claimed that the ACC hadn't thought to look into the question of discrimination when it made its arrangements with the club. But it's hard to believe that the ACC could have been surprised in the matter; the question of discrimination had also been publicly raised in reference to the tournament's previous site, the Cardinal Golf Club in Greensboro, N.C. Indeed, another of Francis' arguments is that it's difficult to find top-quality, discrimination-free courses. But it's not that difficult: Three ACC schools, Duke, North Carolina and Maryland, have their own courses, any of which would be suitable as a tournament site. As for James's reluctance to breach the conference's agreement with Northgreen, Elingburg says that if the ACC wanted to move its tournament elsewhere, the club wouldn't stand in the way.
The refusal of the ACC and, by extension, its eight member schools, six of which are state-supported, to sever their ties with Northgreen is distressing. In effect, the ACC is supporting a facility that practices discrimination. Not incidentally, this support reduces the likelihood that the conference will attract the black golfers it now lacks. It also happens that golf and other minor college sports are largely underwritten by revenues from football and basketball, sports in which blacks play prominent roles. In the ACC, 75% of last year's starting players in basketball and 50% in football were black. It's sad to think that those black athletes helped support an event at a country club that practices racial discrimination.
MAKING APPEARANCES COUNT
To make it these days in the NASL, it's not enough just to be able to play soccer. Under terms of the league's collective-bargaining agreement with its players association, it's also necessary to be a salesman. In recognition of the trouble the NASL has had attracting fans, the agreement, ratified in 1981, gives clubs the right to require each player to make as many as 48 promotional appearances a season on his team's behalf. The league has now issued a 280-page Player Appearance Manual providing teams with detailed guidance on how to get the most marketing mileage out of those appearances.
The manual offers hints on how to plug players into the right promotional sockets. It is pointed out, perhaps unnecessarily, that players hailing from Italy might be more effective appearing before Italian-American than, say, German-American groups. Other guidance is less obvious. Citing examples of effective marketing strategies already followed by various clubs, the manual notes that the Tampa Bay Rowdies have held classes for players on how to deliver a winning speech and have brought in members of the local Toastmasters International chapter to critique the players' efforts. The manual also alerts teams to the existence of a Seattle firm that offers instruction in how to comport oneself during "the impromptu interview." If the NASL has its way, such interviews will become less impromptu—and more tailored to project an image of the league that will help sell tickets.