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Yankee Owner Refers to Team Accountant as ‘Young Black Boy’

July 5, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, in an interview Sunday on racism in sports, referred to his baseball team’s accountant as a ″young black boy.″

Steinbrenner, questioned whether he would make the same pledge as Baltimore Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams to hire more minorities, said that in 13 years he had not seen a concerted effort by owners, especially himself, to exclude minorities.

″My chief accountant, the head accountant that I have in my finance department, happens to be a young black boy; my manager happens to be of Hispanic background; my co-captain on the Yankees happens to be a young black man named Willie Randolph who I wouldn’t trade for anybody,″ Steinbrenner said in an interview on CBS-TV’s ″Face the Nation″ program.

″I don’t see - there’s no conscientious effort on my part as far as the New York Yankees are concerned to exclude anybody.″

Given an opportunity to explain his use of the word ″boy,″ Steinbrenner said: ″You take that out of context - and I don’t want to get into that argument. I think that of all of my young men - I should say ″young men,″ then, if that makes you feel better - have never felt that way.″

″Boy″ is generally regarded as a derogatory term about adult male blacks.

Charges of racism in sports erupted last month when Al Campanis, executive vice president of the Los Angeles Dodgers, questioned whether blacks and minorities had the qualifications to fill management positions.

″They may not have some of the necessities to be, let’s say, a field manager of perhaps a general manager,″ Campanis said. ″It just might be that - why are black men, or black people, not good swimmers? Because they don’t have the buoyancy.″

Campanis later resigned, but the furor did not die down. The Rev. Jesse Jackson demanded fair hiring in baseball and called for a boycott of the sport. He later called the boycott off, saying club owners had promised to hire more minorities.

Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth chose Dr. Harry Edwards, a sports sociologist and black activist to boost minority employment on and off the field.

Steinbrenner, in an interview taped Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, promised to hire more minorities in the front office with the help of Edwards.

But Frank Robinson, who was baseball’s first black manager and is now coach of the Baltimore Orioles, questioned why Steinbrenner needs the help of Edwards to find qualified minorities, saying that they are applying now and being turned down.

″There are qualified minorities, right in baseball, right now at the level,″ Robinson said on the same program. ″He says he has a black boy as his co-captain, Willie Randolph. Willie Randolph has been with the New York Yankees for 10 years and had 10 outstanding years. The manager named him co- captain. That’s on the field, that’s as a player.

″But there are blacks in baseball right now that have been wanting jobs and soliticing jobs in the front office, but they have been shut out.″

Steinbrenner was referring to his accountant and not Randolph when he used the term ″boy.″

John Thompson, head basketball coach at Georgetown University, refused to label the lack of blacks in coaching and management positions as racism, but did comment on Steinbrenner’s remark.

″I think that it is a conscious effort, though, that will really start to say something is racism or say somebody is a ″boy,″ Thompson said on the same show. ″Sometimes we get caught up in the terminology more than we get caught up in the facts that pertain to it, and I think that, just as I don’t think that George meant any real significant thing in saying ‘boy,’ the problem still exists, though.″

Edwards, who also was interviewed on the program, noted the irony of Campanis’ comments setting the wheels in motion for change, while his efforts have attracted little attention.

″I think he has managed to precipitate in one 15-minute discussion something that people such as myself have not been able to accomplish in 20 years of struggle,″ Edwards said. ″So I think the man should really go down in history right alongside Branch Rickey, and, in fact, I have nominated him, with Mr. Benjamin Hooks of the NAACP, for the NAACP Man of the Year award.

″I think he deserves it,″ he said.

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