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SI representatives then sought to distribute questionnaires directly to football and baseball players. This time, opposition was scattered. The New Orleans Saints strongly discouraged their players from taking part in the survey, and Atlanta Falcon players who received it left the questionnaires unanswered after Falcon offensive tackle Mike Kenn, the president of the NFL Players Association, expressed his objections to the questions. When asked to discuss his feelings about the survey, Kenn refused to comment.
While some players failed to fill out the form because of apathy—"Who cares?" said the New York Mets' Vince Coleman as he refused to take a questionnaire-others completed it despite misgivings. Catcher Terry Kennedy of the San Francisco Giants agreed to fill out a form but said, "Some of this stuff [in the questionnaire] can be responsible for stirring up the same things you're asking about." At the end of the questionnaire, in a section set aside for anonymous additional comments, a white baseball player expressed an opinion reflected in other such comments when he wrote, "I believe this survey you are conducting is in very bad taste. You are starting to make controversy between whites and blacks. I think the only one being racist is you!!"
The sharpest revelation to emerge from the replies to the survey was the deep disagreement between blacks and whites on the extent of racial discrimination in pro sports. While 63% of black respondents believed they were generally treated worse than whites were, a scant 2% of whites believed that this was the case—indeed, 17% of the whites declared that blacks were generally favored over whites. There was an even greater split between the races on specific instances of favoritism toward whites: Where 69% of blacks thought whites got special preference for certain key playing positions, only 8% of whites agreed; and where 71% of the blacks believed they had to be better than whites to make a team, not a single white respondent agreed.
This vast statistical disparity between the races was true in nearly every aspect of the survey. And that gap was emphasized in the dozens of anonymous comments at the end of the survey. A black football player wrote, "Black players who make too much, talk too much or don't play three times better than whites get cut." A white NFL player expressed the opposite view: "I think there are more instances of discrimination against white athletes. I have been around coaches who would take a black athlete before an equally talented white athlete any time such a comparison occurred."
A black basketball player wrote, "I've seen white players get coaching positions in the NBA and college, and black players aren't getting anything." A white baseball player: "I'm tired of hearing about minority ex-ballplayers not being given coaching jobs at the major league level without first doing things white ex-players must do—meaning coach in the minors for five or 10 years. If white ex-players must do this, why not everybody? Write about that one time!"
A black football player wrote, "White players seem to be able to get their contracts finalized faster with more money than blacks do on the team I play for." But a white baseball player said, "Management is scared of black athletes!"
Not many black athletes believe that—at least not among the ones who participated in this survey. Their perception is that, with a few exceptions, they are not getting a fair deal from management. A large majority of black respondents think that they receive lower pay and fewer endorsements, and that they have to be better athletes than whites to make it in the pros.
A number of players who answered the questionnaire also volunteered to elaborate on their opinions. San Diego Padres reliever Rich Rodriguez, a Mexican, spoke of the inequities in the treatment of talent among the white and nonwhite players: "Most minorities that make it to the majors tend to be the superstar-type player. You rarely see a minority with average talent go up to the majors—except myself. There are a lot of white guys in the majors who are hanging on to their jobs and should be gone by now."
Deion Sanders, the Atlanta Braves' outspoken outfielder, said, "If you're black and in baseball, there is no in-between. You've got to be a damn great prospect. You don't see any so-so brothers pitching. There are none in the pen or role players. You aren't going to be on the bench just drawing a salary if you're just so-so and black."
But Jerry Olsavsky, a white linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, disagreed: "They talk about no minority coaches and stuff like that and how white players are given more opportunities. I don't really see any of that. The survey asks you, Has there ever been a time where you thought a player was cut because he was black? I mean, that just doesn't happen. You're trying to get the best people on the field you can."