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NBA's Iverson Is Not Alone in His 'Trial by Media'

July 23, 2002

Gar Anthony Haywood is a fine novelist, and he brought a great dramatic flair to his July 18 commentary, "Put Away the Rope in the Iverson Case," on Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson, who was charged with forcing his way into an apartment and threatening two men with a gun. Haywood argued that Iverson is being "nailed to the cross" by his "would-be executioners," who are "virtually hanging him in the town square without a trial" as they "march upon 'Iverson Castle.' " Very nicely worded, but his central thesis is flawed.

Haywood claims that the "zeal" with which Iverson is being criticized is due to the color of his skin and his "thuggish" demeanor. However, white celebrities who have been accused of crimes are equally vilified in the press and in the court of public opinion. What about Robert Blake? Martha Stewart? Kathy Lee Gifford (whose "crime," apart from being gratingly annoying, was that she didn't know that the conglomerate that had paid her to attach her name to a line of clothing was using underage workers)?

And what about white athletes? Were the media and the public any kinder to ice skater Tonya Harding? What about former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker, whose crime was ... oh, I forgot, he didn't actually commit any crime, he just uttered offensive statements.

Yes, there is a double standard when black celebrities are involved in public scandals. Whereas white celebrities have no real recourse against the media pundits and angry mobs, black celebrities (and their defenders) can always play the race card, drop a few lynching references and try to shame their critics into silence. As an African American, I reject these cynical, race-baiting techniques.

Marlon Mohammed

Los Angeles

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Does anyone else see the irony in Haywood's commentary? While he is protesting "the zeal with which Iverson and the like ... are nailed to the cross" and stating, "No matter how guilty of a crime the accused might turn out to be, a lynching is still a lynching," The Times' lead front-page story in the same edition is about the indictment of Inglewood police officers Jeremy Morse and Bijan Darvish.

Many black leaders have been trying to "lynch" Morse, without the benefit of a trial, since this incident became news. Haywood's commentary would be of far greater value if he had included the Inglewood incident as another example where "a lynching is still a lynching."

James B. Davis

Beverly Hills

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Regarding the so-called persecution of Iverson by the media (white media was the implication), I find it interesting that he was able to tell the authorities that he would turn himself in a number of days after the alleged incident. Wow! I wonder if the average alleged offender would have the privilege of deciding when he would turn himself in and not be dragged to jail like everyone else.

Al Abrusia

Tarzana

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