Raveling, colleagues defend Packer from racism charges

Media Watch

March 06, 1996|By Milton Kent

NEW YORK -- Calling himself "naive" in such matters, CBS basketball analyst Billy Packer yesterday restated his apology for referring to Georgetown guard Allen Iverson as a "tough monkey" Saturday.

At the same time, Packer bristled at notions -- published and broadcast -- that he is a racist.

"What I did on the air -- when it was brought to my attention, because I didn't even think about it -- I apologized for anybody who was sensitive to what I said. I apologized and I'm sorry for it," said Packer, during a break in a seminar for CBS announcers and production staff who will work this month's NCAA tournament.

"But I don't want to even think about having to apologize to somebody who thinks I'm a racist, because that's not what I am and that's not what I've ever been. That offended me that somebody would call me a racist, who either didn't know me, or if they did know me [would know] that could never happen." Packer made the remark during Saturday's Georgetown-Villanova telecast, and apologized on air twice afterward. Though switchboards at both the USAir Arena and the Washington CBS affiliate lighted up with protest calls, Georgetown coach John Thompson quickly defended Packer and declared that neither he nor Iverson was offended by the remark.

Rick Gentile, CBS Sports' senior vice president in charge of production, said Packer will face no disciplinary action from the network.

"I think he's responded in the right way. He answered all the questions that were asked of him, and he apologized and CBS apologized for those who were offended. It's an unfortunate incident and hopefully it's over," said Gentile.

Packer's CBS analyst colleagues provided a vigorous defense of the man and his character.

"It was an accident," said Quinn Buckner. "Is it something that could be considered insensitive? Possibly, but I don't think that was the intent. If you look at the man and the history of what he's done and what he's about, he's a fair man and deserves a chance, because he's apologized for what occurred if it offended people."

Said former Southern California coach George Raveling, former president of the Black Coaches Association: "When the BCA was going through and expressing some of its concerns, I don't know anybody in the country that was more supportive of our actions than Billy was. He was willing to assist us in anything we did. For someone to suggest that Billy is a racist is an absolute joke."

Packer said he spoke yesterday morning with civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who had immediately called for a meeting with CBS officials over the comments. Packer said Jackson offered him "some very good advice" about being sensitive to other people's concerns, "even if I am naive in some respects over how I live my own life."

"In my mind -- and again, here I'm naive -- it was an endearing comment," said Packer. "Now, brought to my attention that it's not endearing to other people, I apologize for that. End of story."

Playing host to millions

Fox's presentation of the otherwise skippable movie, "Rookie of the Year," tomorrow night (Channel 45, 8 p.m.) gets a decidedly Orioles twist as Cal Ripken will host the film. His lead-ins, which precede and follow commercials, were taped Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

In addition, the network, which will begin airing baseball later this spring, will debut a pair of promos for its coverage that feature Ripken.

In one spot, Ripken plays his twin brother, "Hal," who allegedly and surreptitiously helped him set the record for most consecutive games played, while the other sends everybody's favorite shortstop up against a mailman, who has been at his post for years and years on end without fail, and resents the attention this certain shortstop has accrued.

CBS to air Valvano bio

Sports Illustrated TV will produce and CBS will air a made-for-television movie on the life of Jim Valvano on April 2, the night after the men's Division I championship game is played.

Titled "Never Give Up: The Jimmy V Story," the movie stars Anthony LaPaglia as the former North Carolina State coach, who succumbed to cancer in 1993, and Ashley Crow as his wife, Pam.

The movie will include footage from the 1983 NCAA championship game, which the Wolfpack won 54-52 over Houston, and will focus on his career and his battle against cancer.

Pub Date: 3/06/96

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