By: Mark Fitzgerald Nearly 100 sportswriters protest presence of Georgia state flag with its Confederate battle emblem sp.
NEARLY 100 SPORTSWRITERS covering the Super Bowl Jan. 30 walked out on the national anthem to protest the presence of the Georgia state flag with its Confederate battle emblem. The reporters either stayed outside or left the two press boxes in the Georgia Dome before the playing of the national anthem. Another 25 sportswriters wore black ribbons or black shirts to protest the presence of the Georgia flag, which in 1956 was redesigned by the pro-segregation Legislature to incorporate the Stars and Bars of the Confederate battle flag. The unusual protest by journalists began earlier in Super Bowl week with a column by a Detroit News sportswriter and spread spontaneously. In a front-page column Jan. 26, News sports columnist Terry Foster wrote about the controversy involving the Georgia flag and announced that he intended to walk out during the anthem rather than stand for the banner. In the column, Foster recalled that he had walked out on the flag a few years ago while covering a basketball game in Atlanta. "I mentioned the column to a couple of other reporters in Atlanta," he said in an interview, "and they too decided they did not like the idea of standing for a Confederate flag." Jan. 27, Foster met with six other writers, who all decided that they would walk out during the anthem. While the group did issue a statement to the Associated Press, the protest mostly spread by word of mouth, Foster said. The sportswriters' protest attracted remarkably little reaction, at least publicly, from newspaper editors. Foster, who said he notified his editors in advance, said he had heard of no sportswriters being rebuked for their part in the protest. Random calls to sports editors and sportswriter associations failed to turn up any examples. At at least one paper, the Washington Post, sportswriters were reminded of a policy against participating in demonstrations. "We chatted about it" before the Super Bowl, said George Solomon, the Post's assistant managing editor-sports. York, Pa., mayor forbids press contact CHARLES ROBERTSON, the new mayor of York, Pa., has ordered city employees not to talk to the press, directing that all information, including crime and fire reports, be funneled through his office or his information officer. One day after taking office, Robertson slapped the gag on city employees. He said he was annoyed by leaks and concerned that holdovers from the previous administration would gossip about him and his staff. There was no official announcement about the new policy; it was leaked to the media. Robertson, a retired police officer, commented, "We want to make sure that the information that is released is accurate. Those talking to the press should have all the facts." Dennis Hetzel, editor and publisher of the York Daily Record, said he planned to discuss the policy with the mayor. He expressed concern about the consequences of clearing information through a spokesman. And in Duncannon, Pa., the borough council has ordered the town's only policeman not to speak to reporters. Council vice president Keith Wolford told the Harrisburg, Pa., Patriot-News, "You people put us on the firing line. We feel there's a lot of misquotes." All information pertaining to the police must come from Mayor Irvin "Bud" Ney, the council said. The policy was adopted after publication of stories about a collision involving the borough's police cruiser and the police chief's truck on a deserted country road.