Internet petition urges Blazers to hire Lucas
Fan boycott hinted if blacks aren't employed in team's front office
A Portland man says 45,000 people from around the country have written him, mostly via the Internet, in support of his petition to the Trail Blazers to hire former player Maurice Lucas.
The petition called for the Blazers to hire Lucas as their general manager, but the team gave that position to John Nash last week.
Burke says fans who agree with him might have to consider boycotting the team.
'I prefer the term 'economic sanction,' ' he says.
The Blazers say they are setting up a meeting Wednesday between Burke and team President Steve Patterson.
'We all have such a great relationship with Maurice, we were quite surprised to hear about this,' Blazer spokeswoman Traci Rose says.
Bob Boyer, a longtime community activist in Northeast Portland, says he, too, plans to attend Wednesday's meeting.
'We will sit down and listen first to see what their program is and what their plans are for the future,' Boyer says, 'and then we'll be able to evaluate what's going on.'
In summation, the petition reads: 'I firmly and unequivocally believe that Luke can bring the organization back to respectability, integrity and make the Blazers back into a playoff contender!'
Burke, 46, says that his drive is entering its second week and that he could make the petition available to millions more by posting it on other Web sites.
'The Trail Blazer organization basically reflects the city and the state, and they're 20-30 years behind the times,' Burke says. 'Things here are worse than in Mississippi and Alabama in the '60's.
'I'm trying to open up a dialogue so there's going to be fairness, opportunity and inclusion.'
Mike Hanson, executive director of communications for the team, disagreed with that premise: 'The Blazers are 100 percent committed to hiring a diverse work force, and we take this commitment very seriously. We believe our hiring practices mirror the demographics of the city of Portland and are reflective of the community at large. In fact, more than half the Trail Blazer management team is made up of women and minorities.'
Lucas, a 51-year-old Portland businessman, was the star power forward on the Blazers' 1977 NBA championship team. He says of the petition: 'I certainly wasn't the one who initiated it.'
The question of whether he wanted to succeed Bob Whitsitt as Blazer GM 'is spilled milk,' Lucas says. 'I think the issue is, have the Blazers hired anybody of color to any positions of authority, or even to a position where that person can make decisions or have an impact.
'Over the past 10 years or so,' he adds, 'the Blazers have not hired African-Americans to those types of roles, outside of (coach) Maurice Cheeks.
'That could be part of the problem they're facing. They've got blemishes all over their name, and part of it could be that their young players don't feel like they have anyone to talk to other than Maurice. A lot of times, players don't want to talk to their coach.
'This issue should be brought to the forefront.'
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