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Packers Coach Nixes White Interview

July 21, 1998

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) _ Reggie White can’t use the sideline as his pulpit.

Green Bay Packers coach Mike Holmgren nixed the group interview of his candid defensive end who doubles as a Baptist minister after learning about it following Monday morning’s practice.

With Holmgren not in the best of moods following a bad morning practice and with all of the headlines White has made in the offseason by speaking out against homosexuality, the coach didn’t want his star making any more sound bites.

So Holmgren canceled the sideline session just as he has done at times with quarterback Brett Favre.

``Put them in a situation where they have a microphone in front of them and anything could be said,″ Holmgren explained. ``I would just like to minimize the distractions just a little bit.″

Holmgren apparently canceled the interview because he hadn’t briefed White on what topics would be best to avoid.

White told three beat reporters following the afternoon practice that he would speak ``probably off and on″ during training camp and that he and Holmgren had spoken between practices.

He indicated he was OK with Holmgren’s decision.

``If it wasn’t OK with me, he would know it,″ White said.

White, whose bad back forced his brief retirement in April, has practiced more than expected at camp so far.

During Holmgren’s daily chat with the media Monday morning, he said: ``I understand (White) was going to come over here and have a little press conference. I’m not going to do that with any of the players in training camp. If it’s about his back, his back is sore. But he has been able to practice. And, periodically during training camp, I will let him take a practice off, where he will just work on stretching and rehabbing.″

But White’s health wasn’t the only topic sure to come up.

White got into hot water with the NFL when he appeared in a full-page advertisement in USA Today last week. The ad, which included an unauthorized photo of White in his Packers uniform, was headlined ``Toward an open debate on homosexual behavior.″

Under the photo of White, in large type, were the words: ``In defense of free speech.″ And it documented criticism White said he has received for speaking out against homosexuality, which he first did in a speech to Wisconsin lawmakers in March.

The $63,000 ad, which also pictures White’s wife, Sara, was paid for by a coalition of 15 Christian groups. They failed to get the league’s permission to picture White in uniform.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Monday the league planned to contact White and the group that paid for the ad ``just to make sure that the rules are understood.″

``The only issue was over the use of the uniform in the ad,″ Aiello said. ``And there was no permission that was asked for or given to use the uniform. Reggie White’s speaking as an individual and he’s certainly free to express his views. That’s not an issue at all.″

Aiello said the league would have denied permission for White to be pictured in uniform.

``Right, we were not looking to be engaged in that issue, in that discussion,″ he said.

``Reggie White’s picture can certainly appear in that ad, but he should have been in street clothes or as somebody said, in his minister’s garb,″ Aiello said. ``We’re sure it was an honest mistake.″

Holmgren said he realized how some people could misinterpret the ad as representing the view of the team.

``It’s Reggie’s position. It’s not the position of the club,″ Holmgren said.

The Packers have found themselves addressing White’s views before.

During their annual shareholders meeting two weeks ago, stockholder Jeff Monaghan of Chicago asked for the club to publicly distance itself from White’s comments condemning homosexuality as ``one of the biggest sins in the Bible.″

Packers president Bob Harlan ignored the request, explaining afterward that he didn’t feel it appropriate to address the issue at a business meeting.

``It wasn’t something that ever had to do with the organization, really,″ Harlan said. ``Reggie was speaking as a citizen and I think as any citizen does, he deserves the right to say what he wants to say on any subject.

Besides, Harlan said, ``I’ve hard from many, many people who truly supported him and were thankful he spoke out.″

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