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The sporting vernacular, with its gift for the pungent phrase, tempts more and more politicos, and this week Adlai Stevenson appropriated it to say, in a speech at a Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Hartford, Connecticut:
"To put it politely, I must say that the head coach seems to have missed some plays and not be too sure of the score."
THE POOR OLD AAU
Since it suspended Wes Santee two Sundays ago the Amateur Athletic Union has been showered with criticism. It has been accused of cruel and unusual discipline because it singled out Santee for investigation and punishment while letting other similar offenders go free; of playing into the hands of the Russians by removing our best runner from the Olympics and thus insuring victory for the Soviets (and a Communist propaganda coup); of hypocrisy because it punished an athlete who took money but not the officials who gave it to him; of capriciousness for suddenly enforcing the letter of the amateur law after winking at violations of it for years; and of gross naivet� in defending the outdated and thoroughly discredited idea of pure amateurism in sport.
Despite the number and quality of the critics—they include Senator Frank Carlson of Kansas and Shirley Povich of the Washington Post , sports-writer of intelligence and integrity—emotion seems to have swayed reason. For the most part, the AAU is being unjustly criticized. Consider:
The AAU singled out Santee for investigation and punishment. Last May Santee received $450 from the Fresno Relays to cover his expenses, including round-trip fare from Kansas to California. Before returning to Kansas a week or so later, he competed in two other meets for which he also received expenses that included round-trip airline fare from Kansas to California. Even accepting one of Santee's arguments—that a first-class athlete is obliged to spend as high as $40 a day on expenses—the $1,200 he received impressed Sportswriter Bruce Lee as an awful lot of money for an amateur to accept. He broke the story in the San Francisco Chronicle. His charges were detailed and specific. There was an immediate demand that "somebody do something" about Santee. The group that had to do something was, of course, the AAU. Despite some recent extravagant talk, no specific charges of accepting exorbitant expense money have been directed at any other athlete.
The AAU is playing into the hands of the Russians by keeping Santee out of the Olympics. The president of the International Olympic Committee (chap by the name of Avery Brundage) informed the president of the AAU last December that even if Santee were to be cleared by the AAU, the evidence already on the record was sufficient to keep him out of the Olympic Games. The precedent for this occurred in 1932 when Finland absolved Paavo Nurmi of well-founded charges of professionalism only to have him barred by the International Amateur Athletic Federation the day before the Games opened. As for propaganda, the AAU's action in suspending its most famous athlete is more likely to reflect in America's favor than against it.
The AAU is hypocritical because it punishes the athlete but absolves the official. Actually, the most significant thing about the AAU decision was not the banishment of Santee (other great athletes have been barred before), but its denunciation of certain meet officials in California and its announced intent to continue the investigation of meet promoters even further. A report of a special committee at the AAU convention last December said in part: "The...sponsor who solicits participation of a star athlete...and 'persuades' him to do so by payment of exorbitant fees under the guise of 'expenses' must be held legally responsible with the athlete and must be banished from the amateur athletic scene. He is as much the guilty party...."