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Arizona St. Apologizes to Kerr : Arizona Guard Was Target of Taunts by Fans Before Game

March 01, 1988|TRACY DODDS | Times Staff Writer

Charles Harris, Arizona State athletic director, on Monday sent a letter of apology to Arizona guard Steve Kerr, who on Saturday night was taunted by Arizona State fans about the assassination of his father, Malcolm Kerr. Kerr was killed in Beirut in 1984 when he was president of American University.

Shouts of "PLO, PLO . . . " and "Your father's history," and "Why don't you join the Marines and go back to Beirut?" by a small group of students caused Kerr to sit down for a few minutes to regain his composure.

The taunting took place about a half-hour before game time, with only about 1,000 of the eventual crowd of 12,784 at Arizona State's University Activity Center.

Asked about the incident Tuesday after practice, Kerr said: "It was amazing, and, I think, pretty disgusting. It's hard to believe that people would do that, but it had happened to me one other time before, a couple of years ago, also at Arizona State. But that time it was just one or two people, so it wasn't noticed much. Saturday, it was about 10 or 15 people, in unison.

"When I heard it, I just dropped the ball and started shaking. I sat down for a minute. I'll admit they got to me. I had tears in my eyes. For one thing, it brought back memories of my dad. But, for another thing, it was just sad that people would do something like that.

"A couple of my teammates sat down with me. And a couple of their fans came down to apologize. They were embarrassed. They should be. It doesn't give their program a very good image. It can't do anything but hurt their program. I think it would be tough to recruit to a school with fans like that."

Kerr, a fifth-year senior, made all six of his shots from three-point range and finished with 22 points as he led his No. 3-ranked Wildcats to a 101-73 victory.

Kerr said: "It happened long enough before the game that I was able to regain my composure. There's no question they made me play my best. There's no question it got my whole team fired up."

The letter that Harris sent to Kerr reads: "Dear Steve, It is with sincere regret that I write this letter. I would like to extend my apologies to you for the mental anguish that you had to endure because of the disillusioned few at the University Activity Center last Saturday. I refuse to refer to them as fans because they do not dignify the term.

"We do not condone that kind of behavior from our ticket-holders. I certainly hope they will realize from this unfortunate incident that it does affect people in horrible ways.

"Again, please accept my apologies for you and your family, the Wildcat basketball team and the University of Arizona. All of us respect and admire you and hope that this can be a friendly rivalry for years to come."

Copies were sent to Arizona Coach Lute Olson, Arizona State Coach Steve Patterson, Arizona Athletic Director Cedric Dempsey, Arizona State President Dr. J. Russell Nelson, Arizona President Henry Koffler and Arizona Board of Regents President Donald Schropshire.

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