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Press Conference
Jesse Jackson
(Monday, June 6 -- 11:15 a.m.)



Rev. Jesse Jackson:

Thanks for the opportunity to be here today with you athletic directors. This coming Friday and Saturday, we're having a meeting of the Rainbow Coalition Commission on Fairness in Athletics, at which time, we're issuing the standards by which we will judge schools on their compliance with fairness.

We met a few weeks ago with leaders of the NCAA. There must be some judging of schools based upon their recruitment, hiring and promotions, but also, based upon life beyond the playing field. There's still too many schools who keep our youth propped up for eligibility and not prepared for graduation. Other African-American athletes who do graduate and come back to school, there is no place for them. You look at the athletic program between coaches' spots, athletic directors job, off the field and on the field look like two different cultures. We've not made progress and we've just got out of picking cotton balls to picking footballs, basketballs and baseballs. We must have the opportunity to be a part of the athletic industry at every level.

I'm making a very special appeal to the NCAA with regards to the conduct of coaches. They should develop an experimental model to give coaches more access to our youth in the summer in the inner cities. There can be some adequate ways of constraint developed, some trust established to make sure there are no recruiting violations. But, in effect, to ban coaches from coaching, recruiting inspiring in the summer time. It's open season for drug dealers, gang bangers and police and that does not stand to reason.

I submit we would do better in this country today if we hire 25,000 coaches than the 100,000 police. Policemen, at best, chase our youth. Coaches can cultivate them. Give to coaches a reasonable budget and a playground and they'll take several hundred youth and develop them into leagues, organize them, teach them, discipline them, prepare them to develop and that role must not be seen as secondary. So, we will be in our conference this week making an appeal to the NCAA to take into account the two-track school system that has now been re-established by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court last week, essentially, went beyond Brown vs. the Board of Education. They went back to Pleases vs. Ferguson, separate but unequal, in the Kansas City case. There is no compelling obligation of the state to have one school system. There is no compelling obligation they said, to lift those who are down-up without lowering those who are up-down. Thus, they can solidify two systems. Well, we must continue to fight to have one system, one set of rules, to even the playing field. We know when the playing field is even, we all achieve excellence. We need a system of merit that's fair.

Thank you.

From the Floor:


Rev. Jackson, do you have any record of what schools may be not conforming to the criteria that you set out?

Rev. Jesse Jackson:

A lot of them are and we have sent out this basic guideline and I'll get copies of this to you later today, with the name of the institution and we'll submit this to those institutions. It lists the total number of students, the number of female and male, what they do and right down the line to graduation rates and roles beyond the playing field. We'll be issuing our assessment of schools based upon complying with some rules of fairness. Those we feel do not deem fair, we shall discourage students and student-athletes not to attend those schools. Why should they attend those schools and be an entertainer, with the propped up eligibility, but not likely to graduate, or, if they do graduate, no future beyond the playing field? We simply want our schools to be fair.

From the Floor:

Will you be sending these out to the schools to have them fill out?

Rev. Jesse Jackson:

Most of them already have and we're still getting information back now. We discussed this with the NCAA officials for the meeting three weeks ago so as to get input from the NCAA. This is to establish some standards for a group of people to determine who's number one, two, three, four or five, top 10, top 20, based upon winning or losing. We're going to determine the top 20 and the bottom 20, who gets the orange and who gets the onion based upon fairness. I would hope in the future that as coaches are recruiting, they'll be able to say to the court that the index of fairness, our school has a greater opportunity for your youth.

I hope one day all of them are fair. In the meantime, let's have a creative proposition to be fair and to do justice and to be conclusive.

From the Floor:

I've spent a lot of time earlier with your colleagues talking about the role coaches can play and the importance of reaching out to athletes in the community. What should colleges and universities be doing to make fairness?

Rev. Jesse Jackson:

Interestingly enough, the last two Supreme Court decisions will make recruitment less likely, make the ability to recruit more difficult and more expensive. But, the same schools, however, that will keep recruiting athletes because that will identify a profitable interest in doing so. To that extent, the success of the student-athlete becomes a prime leverage and not a struggle for justice because while the athlete may not get any money for playing, his success on the ballfield can be a fact in assuring that they'll be students in parts of the school other than the athletic arena. After all, the athletes do have leverage. They can demand students in other schools and universities and be heard because they do have leverage. They can demand the faculty members and the students, as they did some years ago at UNC, about a Black Culture Center on their campus, one that would, in fact, make the school better rounded. Maybe, what we would not get from a course, is the sense of justice that these young athletes, if their minds are renewed and they are matured, would be a big factor. Continuing the drive for what recruitment or anticipation.

From the Floor:

Are you troubled by seeing the athletes forego their final years of eligibility to go off to the pros? Is this just an NCAA problem?

Rev. Jesse Jackson:

I'm not troubled by that. Not as I once was. Two years of college are better than none. Some people take four years to become a physicist or mathematician. Some take two years to become a professional basketball player. Both have to learn a trade for their life's work. I would hope the students would see the value of an education beyond just playing ball. A few of them make the mistake that will hurt them in the long run if they leave with only the ball skills with just a twisted knee away from oblivion. They are certainly less able to protect their monies, if they can't count. I want to see the black athletes get all four years, gotten a degree and then see that their able to make this mega money, spend more time in business and commerce departments than in the athletic department because those without education and money, it soon departs.

To me, there's something healthy about the college environment. You're likely to find a compatible wife. You're likely to learn some art, music and science so, I'm with all the college environment offers. Certainly, you cannot tell a youth at this stage, given the odds they face and the level of commercialized athletics they play, to gross millions for their school for free while they're ineligible to get a ticket to go home to see a dying grand daddy, does not stand to reason. But of course, that is so rare and exceptional. That's not the standard. Most of these youth do not have those kind of pro offers. Those are rare and they get a lot of publicity, but that's not the extended operating options that you have and they tend to know it.

Thank you very much.