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Group Urges No Cursing in Sports

March 1, 1999

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ Trash talk is as familiar to basketball fans as slam dunks. On the sidelines of NFL games, profanity is as much a fixture as Gatorade.

But it doesn’t stop there. High school athletes _ and even those younger _ are cursing during games.

Tuesday is National Sportsmanship Day, and the group organizing the event wants to do something about all the crude talk. It is campaigning for players and coaches at about 12,000 schools in 101 nations to pledge not to curse.

``I think it’s a pretty big deal because most players do swear on the court and it just takes away from the game ... the enjoyment, the excitement,″ said Reginald Williams, a 17-year-old from North Carolina who plays basketball for the American Community School in Cobham, England.

The Institute for International Sport, a nonprofit group that promotes ethics and international friendship through sports, got the idea for the ``No Swear Zone″ pledge after doing a survey of top business and political leaders, said executive director Dan Doyle.

One Fortune 500 CEO called profanity in sports a major self-control problem.

``There is no such thing as trash talking in corporate board rooms,″ he said in response to the survey, choosing to remain anonymous.

Organizers from the institute, which is based in South Kingstown, R.I., concede they do not know whether profanity is in sports is on the rise.

One coach said profanity is not a factor of class, nationality or religion. Rather, she said, the popular culture reinforces the foul language.

``It’s the television they watch. It’s the culture,″ said Barbara Hoegen, who coaches Williams and other varsity basketball players for the American Community School in Cobham.

The school attracts the children of well-paid expatriate professionals and business executives from around the world to its campus 30 minutes outside of London.

``They are from good families. We call it milk and honey land,″ she said.

Doyle concedes that pledging to not curse will do little to change the behavior, which often comes in uncontrolled outbursts.

Williams, who Hoegen says curses a lot, agrees. In the margin of the no-profanity pledge sheet, he noted that he would only ``try″ not to swear.

``I’m very passionate about basketball. If something goes wrong, I can’t really say to my coach that I am not going to say something bad,″ Williams said. ``But I would definitely try to live up to my word,″ he said.

Doyle hopes a series of role-playing activities and discussion topics suggested to schools for National Sportsmanship Day will help change attitudes more than the pledge itself.

``It doesn’t do any good for someone to come up before a game and read the sportsmanship code,″ he said. ``What does good is for teams to really sit down and decide where they stand.″

In past years, National Sportsmanship Day has focused on deeper problems in sports, such as racism and violence.

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