October 20, 2009
To: Editor, The Daily Universe
C.C to reporters: Justin Crandall, Mike Curtis and Claire Thorndike
Two recent reports in The Daily Universe recalling the “Black Athlete” protests of 1969 are reasonably candid and accurate, insofar as they go. However, quite a bit more went unreported or fell victim to an editor’s “sharp pencil.”
If it is important to revisit these events, as appears to be the case, it is critical that they be recalled correctly and as completely as possible.
The "black protests" against BYU began in 1969 and continued for a few years (not a few months, as was claimed in The Universe reports). Arguably, the church’s policy at the time forbidding black members to be ordained to the priesthood influenced decisions by Arizona and Arizona State to seek membership Pacific Athletic Conference, in what thereafter became known as the PAC-10. Until the controversy, BYU was said to be evaluating joining the Pacific Athletic Conference (PAC-8) or was being considered for membership.
The behavior of BYU, its sponsors and supporters in the media then was not above reproach. I would recommend that the young reporters at The Universe take a hard look at the coverage of the protests in the local newspapers -- particularly the many racially charged pieces in the The Deseret News written by its late Sports Editor Hack (Harold G.) Miller. Commentary from the Salt Lake Tribune's sports editor, John Mooney, was only slightly more temperate. They may also want to check-out a few editorials in The Church News.
The statements in the your story from former BYU President Ernest L. Wilkinson are flatly disingenuous, deliberately misleading.
Of course, the reporters are more than welcome to e-mail me as well. Incidentally, I was the sports desk editor of The Deseret News in the Fall of 1969 and was later a reporter at Sports Illustrated.
P.S. to the letter encouraging honesty at BYU
Shortly after the letter was submitted, the“add new comment” buttons beneath the on-line versions of both stories were removed. It is unfortunate that editors chose not to publish my thoughtful response, and very disappointing that they shut down on-line discussion of this chapter of BYU/Church history.
It is ironic that this action would be taken so soon after Elder Dallin Oaks speech at BYU/Idaho defending the importance of free expression.
Regrettably, the more things change at BYU, the more they seem to remain the same.