Former tennis star Arthur Ashe said that newspapers owned by blacks or women would not have been as quick to publicize his struggle with AIDS, a condition he kept secret for four years until a reporter discovered it in April.
"I assumed that we as African-Americans may be more sensitive about going public with these sorts of things . . . . We are probably a bit more sensitive because that sort of thing has happened to us," said Ashe, a U.S. Open winner and black pioneer in sports.
"If some African-American had gone ahead with a story like that, the black church would not have liked that. It was just wrong," said Ashe, who commented during and after an appearance in Baltimore before a convention of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a trade association of black-owned newspapers.
Ashe convened a news conference April 8 to announce his condition after receiving an inquiry from a reporter for USA Today. He said at the time that he resented having to make the announcement, viewing it as an unnecessary invasion of his privacy.
"It was a personal matter that I wanted to keep within a small circle of friends and family and doctors," he said.
Ashe also urged the publishers to do more to encourage scholarship among black youths and to dampen unrealistic ambitions for athletic careers.
One study revealed that 44 percent of black high school and college basketball and football players think that they will become professional athletes, he said.
"I think you, the black press, could help dissuade them from this notion," Ashe said.
One of seven black males in college is an athlete, compared with one of 43 white students, he said.
"I get the feeling that they love us as athletes and hardly tolerate us as scholars," he said.
Too many black youths mistakenly view sports as the only way to get to college, and too few of them manage to graduate once admitted, he said.
"The blunt truth is few of us bother to grab these kids by the collar in the 10th grade and look them square in the eye and say, 'It won't matter how good your jump shot is if you don't get your grades up,' " he said.