Former Athletes Discuss Race and Sports at US Mayors Conference

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DALLAS — Sports and racism; tough talk on the final day of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Dallas.
Dallas Cowboys legend Michael Irvin and NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, joined former pro basketball star turned mayor Kevin Johnson. Johnson is now the mayor of Sacramento.

Jabbar, who was briefly an assistant coach with the Clippers, spoke out about the racist comments that have kept owner Donald Sterling squirming on the sidelines.

“I was confused not knowing exactly which set of facts Mr. Sterling stood behind,” the Hall of Famer said.

“Then, when his words came out, it was so obvious and shocking and just disgusting.”

Michael Irvin had some strong words on the `N` word; a slur that landed two NFL players in big league trouble last year.

“First of all, we all have to take responsibilities as African Americans for injecting the word out there, and making it OK,” the former Cowboys wide receiver said.

On the topic of Riley Cooper, the Eagles receiver caught on camera dropping the ’N’ word, Irvin responded candidly.
“Would I count [Cooper] as a racist? I don`t think so, this man had been around people for all his life.”
Yet, Irvin had a different tune for Richie Incognito — the Dolphins lineman suspended for bullying his teammate.
“Richie Incognito used the word as a systematic way to break down another man. Now, that is what I call racism.”

Despite these high-profile incidents, the former athletes said sports can be an avenue to bridge the racial gap.

“It enables people that would not necessarily have the opportunity to get to know each other, and to understand hey, they`re just like us,” Jabbar explained.

“We`re dealing with the same issues; we`re trying to get to the same place… We still have a very long way to go.”