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Indy Speedway Lifts Credential Ban

May 20, 1999

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Facing the threat of media boycotts at the Indy 500, the speedway reinstated credentials for a Sports Illustrated writer who had been barred because the magazine ran a critical article and photo of fans killed at a race.

The ban had raised concerns at several newspapers around the country. The Chicago Tribune and Sports Illustrated said they weren’t going to cover the May 30 race, and the Los Angeles Times was considering a similar move.

But speedway president Tony George said Thursday that he had decided to allow SI’s senior auto writer, Ed Hinton, to cover the race because he didn’t want to detract from the event itself.

``It’s my hope that I never see him or they never come around,″ said George, who called Hinton a ``danger to himself and to the sport he covers.″

``I’m not a communist, but I just feel like something had to be done, a statement had to be made,″ George said.

Sports Illustrated said Hinton would cover the race but was upset by George’s criticism.

``We’re glad it’s been resolved. We wish it hadn’t come to this,″ SI spokesman Joe Assad said. ``We stand by everything Ed has written. He’s a valuable writer for the magazine. We trust this will be the last of the attacks.″

Chicago Tribune sports editor Dan McGrath said the newspaper would also cover the race now that George had changed his mind.

``We made a statement because we believed the IRL was practicing censorship,″ he said.

Indy Racing League officials were upset by SI’s coverage of the IRL VisionAire 500 in Concord, N.C., on May 1, when three fans were killed by debris from a wreck.

The magazine ran an Associated Press photo in its May 10 issue that showed two sheet-covered bodies on bloody grandstand steps. Hinton wrote in the accompanying article, titled ``Fatal Attractions,″ that such accidents could be avoided.

The speedway offered to provide credentials for a different SI writer, but the magazine declined.

Mai Lindstrom, an IRL spokeswoman, has said that while some of the AP photos were ``very graphic, to our knowledge, SI was the only publication that chose to print one.″

Brian Horton, AP’s senior photo editor for sports, said photo editors were sensitive to the graphic nature of the photographs and took steps to edit them carefully. He said there had been no complaints from AP members.

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