Ed Garvey, the labor leader, is right about the National Football League being a "monument to racism," a charge that touched off screams of bloody murder from the NFL office two days ago. Someone at the NFL office said Garvey was on a hysterical tirade, which is probably what Bull Connor said about Martin Luther King singing in the streets of Birmingham.
"in my eight years in the league, I haven't seen any progress," said Jean Fugett, a black, a tight end, the elected team representative of the Redskins. "No progress at all in terms of seeing blacks promoted into coaching jobs or front-office jobs."
Garvey is the boss of the Nfl Players Association, the union that does battle with the NFL owners and Commissioner Pete Rozelle. In a memo to the NFL team respresentatives, Garvey pointed out that the league has no black head coaches, no black general managers and no black publicity men. Fair-minded folks might wonder why the black man disappears from the NFL once he can't run real fast.
Frank Robinson and Bill Russell think they know why. They think professional sport is operated by racists.
"I sure haven't been whiteballed," said Robinson when someone asked him if baseball had blackballed him. The question came up during the World Series when Robinson, an Oriole coach, said he had received only one job offer in baseball -- as a coach with the Angels -- since the ClevelandIndians fired him as manager in mid-1977.
"If you ask quietly and get the truth," said Russell, "anyone who played at Green Bay will tell you that Willie Davis could have been a coach. You think he was even offered a job in football? . . . And Frank Robinson -- sure, he ought to make noise. Baseball has this game of musical chairs it plays with managers, but now they won't let Robinson have a chair."
Russell and Robinson are important here not only because they are black. They both became bosses in their games, Robinson hired as the Indians' manager, Russell as the Celtics' coach. But both say the boundless nature of human tolerance had nothing to do with a white man giving a black man a job. They were hairshirts, Hall of Fame athletes who by identifying bigotry made enough people feel guilty enough that they were hired, as much to shut them up as anything else.
"when I was fired, it was like, 'Baseball has done its duty, you blew it, now you black guys wait another 10 years'," Robinson said.
In football, there hasn't even been a suggestion of a Frank Robinson or a Bill Russell. The Redskins have no receiver coach, although one of the NFL's greatest receivers, Charley Taylor, is on the payroll as a scout. Why isn't he a coach?
"What about Mel Renfro and Cornell Green?" Jean Fugett said, naming two All-Pro defensive backs from his days with the Cowboys. "And Charley Taylor, too. These people would be fabulous coaches. Rusty Tillman is coaching and they aren't. That's not to take anything away from Rusty (a white, the special teams' coach at Seattle), but I think Green and Renfro probably know something about defense. And Charley Taylor knows a little bit about catching passes."
Which means, one presumes, that Charley Taylor knows everything about catching passes but is on the road, scouting, because he is black. It is the NFL's belief, handed down from high above Park Avenue, that the scarcity of blacks in coaching and executive positions is a result of so few blacks being qualified for the jobs, a sad condition of the race first noticed from the big house's veranda where the massah overlooked the cotton fields and saw strong backs only.
Jack Pardee, the Redskin coach, is on the NFL side.
"In professional football, it's just such a competitive business, how do you get qualified quickly when your neck is on the line every week, every down?" Pardee said.
Pardee was reminded that once upon a time he, too, was a mere field hand, a linebacker toiling for the greater glory of the massah Rams and Redskins, but was a worker with a difference from, say, Willie Davis, one dreaming a white man's dream, unlimited, while the other worked with the idea that the game was all over when he couldn't knock people down anymore.
"You came from a player, why couldn't a black man?" someone said to Pardee.
"A lot of them could," Pardee said. "But the bright ones who could, they had a lot of opportunities besides football to make more money than they could in football."
Pardee takled about Arv Cross, a black who once played defensive back for the Eagles. Cross intended to move into the front office upon retirement, Pardee said. He would have been good at it, Pardee said. "But Irv couldn't afford to stay with the Eagles," the coach said. Cross is into banking now, in addition to doing television commentary.
"No, not at all," Pardee said to the question: Is there racism in the NFL? No more racism, he said, than a bigotry against quarterbacks, who are, in the main, bright, white men. "They tend to have more oppportunities, too, just like bright blacks. Eddie LeBaron was a lawyer for a long time before he got back in football. Jurgensen, Unitas, they they don't do it."
All of it, really, is more proof of what Jean Fugett's parents told him a long, long time ago.
"They told me it's just a fact of life, that we had to be twice as good to make it -- and we still wouln't make it," Fugett said.
"If Joe DiMaggio had signed up to work for a casino, the way Willie Mays did, would Joe DiMaggio be banned from baseball?
"The players association has done a study I'd like to see. They've asked the NFL who has been fined and how much. I'd be curious to see how it turn up, blacks against whites fined. The most absurd thing of all is the $5,000 fines on Don Reese and Randy Crowder (fined by Rozelle after serving one-year sentences on a drug charge).
"They've paid their debt to society, but now they have to pay it to Pete Rozelle?"
The NFLPA says that as of Oct. 25 it has been notified of 29 fines against its members -- 24 of them against blacks, for amounts ranging from $100 to $2,000.
Bill Russell said he has given up trying to change the world. "Just be aware of what's happening," he said.
Jean Fugett said blacks live in a world of limited expectations. "We didn't grow up thinking we could be president of the United States; a congressman, maybe, but not president."
When Coy Bacon, a black, joined the Redskins last year, he went out for dinner with Billy Kilmer, Diron Talbert and Terry Hermeling, all whites. The restaurant owner came by afterward to hand out cigars, making a show of the gifts first to Kilmer, then Talbert and --
-- and the owner skipped over Bacon to hand the next cigar to Hermeling.
"Hey, man, you missed me," Bacon roared, and the owner apologized too profusely.