Walker defends policies for minority namings

February 15, 1993|By New York Times News Service

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- LeRoy Walker, the first black president of the United States Olympic Committee, yesterday found himself in the uncomfortable position of defending the organization's appointment policies toward minority-group members and women.

As a relatively uneventful USOC board of directors meeting neared its close, Evie Dennis, superintendent of the Denver school district and an assistant to the USOC president, attacked Walker and the board for failing to fill committee chairs, and other power positions, with blacks or women.

"You look in this room, you see white males," Dennis said. "I said this back in the '70s, and we've only picked up a few black members since then.

"It seems to me the committee thinks naming a black president is all it's got to do," Dennis said.

The USOC board of directors has 99 voting members. Of those, 24 are women and 11 are black (including two of the women). On the 21 committees for 1993 through 1996, there are four chairwomen, a sub-committee chairwoman and no black committee chairmen. Three chairmen will be named within the next two weeks, and Walker said he was trying very hard to fill them with minority members or women.

"You have to tell me who they are first," Walker said, referring to potential black candidates. "It's a high priority, but unfortunately, I didn't get enough help yet."

Walker said he was seeking minority and women candidates from several available sources: members of the executive committee, staff members, members of the board and members of the Athletes Advisory Council. Walker displayed nomination forms, in which candidates were to be coded according to race and gender.

"This would have been illegal a few years ago," he said, of the classification system he is trying to employ. "Now, they have to tell me who these people are, or I send them back the forms. I think the committee members are getting the message."

Dennis, however, said she had submitted a list of possible minority hires to Walker for several posts.

"I just hate to see this organization slip back," Dennis said. "Dr. Walker has to do more."

Alpha Alexander, who is black, is a sub-committee chairwoman for competitive grants. Alexander said she believed Walker was working to improve the representation by minority members, but Alexander said she was still concerned about what she called "the good-old boy network."

"This is 1993, and the Olympic Committee has to be a reflection of society," Alexander said. "Just because Dr. Walker is the first black president, that shouldn't take care of that group. They keep saying women and minorities are coming, but is it going to happen?"

Alexander had been one of the sponsors who successfully nominated Andrew Young and Arthur Ashe as public-sector members of the committee. Alexander said she came to the meetings in Phoenix saddened by the death of Ashe, but vowed to work to replace him with another black member. Alexander said she planned to nominate Rachel Robinson, the widow of Jackie Robinson, for Ashe's vacant post.

In other matters, the USOC reported record projected revenues for the 1993-96 quadrennium at $388 million, and surpluses projected in the tens of millions.

The committee expressed a commitment to the San Diego training center, and a capital campaign to raise $21.5 million to complete renovations under way at the Colorado Springs Olympic training center.

The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, however, was less optimistic. Charles Battle, executive vice president for the group, admitted that his organization had overestimated the amount of early interest and sponsorship money the 1996 Games would attract in 1992, a year with the Olympics in Albertville, France, and Barcelona, Spain.

The Atlanta group has lowered its projected profits to about $16 million for the 1996 Games, but Battle said the organization has nearly completed political and economic deals that would allow the ambitious Olympic Stadium to be built, at a cost to organization of $207 million.

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