Interview with HARRY EDWARDS : Fighting From the Inside

Former jock and campus radical HARRY EDWARDS now works to put minorities into the front offices of professional baseball

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Like many young black teenagers in the 1950s, Harry Edwards saw sports as an escape from poverty. His father was a $65-a-week laborer who served time in the Illinois state penitentiary. His mother left home when he was eight. At San Jose State young Edwards starred in basketball. But the trappings of racism he found in fraternities, student housing, the faculty and staff radicalized him. By 1967 he was a Black Panther urging fellow black athletes to boycott white-sponsored events, including the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. At Cornell, where he earned a doctorate, Edwards was a mediator in an armed ) revolt by blacks on campus. Now a sports sociology professor at University of California, Berkeley, and a consultant to the San Francisco 49ers, Golden State Warriors and Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, Edwards is challenging the American sports establishment from the inside. On the eve of Bill White's debut as the first black president of the National League, Edwards, 46, talked with TIME's Dennis Wyss about his efforts to break through the almost-all-white lineup of sports managers.

Q. When General Manager Al Campanis was fired by the Los Angeles Dodgers for saying that blacks lack the "necessities" to manage a big league team, Ueberroth brought you into major league baseball. Why, then, have you hired Al Campanis to assist you?

A. Al Campanis has 40 years of experience in baseball. To sit down with him and talk about the inside functioning of a baseball organization and how to deal with owners and general managers has been enormously helpful. The problem is in baseball. The problem isn't Campanis. Al Campanis is merely an all-but- irrelevant symptom of the problem. To allow him to be turning out there in the wind makes him a scapegoat and ultimately impedes any progress in dealing with the issues in a constructive way.

Q. Since you became a special assistant to the commissioner of baseball almost two years ago, major league teams have hired 21 managers or general managers. Only one, Frank Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles, is black. Has all the soul- searching following Al Campanis' remarks led merely to more empty rhetoric?

A. The issue isn't as simple as whites in positions of power not hiring minorities to run front offices or be field managers, although that is the principal problem. There are corollary difficulties. Some of the most competent and attractive minority candidates are not interested in jobs they've been offered. Or you have candidates like Joe Morgan, who can't just give up businesses that gross millions of dollars a year to go off and become a general manager somewhere. Also, in the post-Campanis era, any new black manager or general manager will be under a microscope and very likely second- guessed on everything he does. Quite frankly, some people look at that situation and simply say, "I don't want the job that badly."

Q. What you're saying, then, is that it's much easier said than done.

A. That's why they call it a struggle instead of a picnic.

Q. So what is your strategy?

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