Covering sports is not Ragged Edge's strong suit; we're decidedly un-athletic. Yet our September/October cover story on the U.S. Olympic Committee's treatment of its Paralympians ("Bad Sports") refuses to quit. As Josie Byzek, who reported the story, points out though, "it's not sports -- it's discrimination."
Shortly after our story appeared, Mark Shepherd, head of the USOC's Disabled Sports program and one of the main sources in our story, sued the USOC. That got a little media -- most of it generated by the USOC itself, with its predictable full-court press against Shepherd (he's "disgruntled," they say.)
So perhaps it wasn't surprising that USOC head Dick Schultz would write Ragged Edge complaining about our "biased, unfair and irresponsible" story. After excoriating us, Schultz tells us all the wonderful things USOC is doing for crip athletes (you can read it on page 4) which fall into either the "hold meetings, discuss the issue" variety -- not real change -- or things that have occurred very very recently, many after our late summer story appeared.
We might have halfway believed Schultz's comments about being nice to Paralympians had he not included with his letter an editorial from the Colorado Springs Gazette.
Colorado Springs is a company town -- the company being the U.S. Olympic Committee. It's not surprising the little paper takes the position of the USOC. But frankly the editorial turned our stomachs.
After telling us that "Certainly, the Paralympic Games are inspiring in their own right," (the inspirational cripple factor), what Paralympians wanted "sorely tests the limits of common sense."
"Olympians and Paralympians aren't equal."
The "fundamental reason " "not to push equal standing for disabled athletes" said the Gazette, is that "the Olympics is for the best athletes. Not the best disabled athletes -- the laudable mission of the Paralympics -- but the best athletes of all." Disabled athletes' abilities simply "fall short of Olympians'," said this bigoted -- and ignorant -- newspaper.
"In 1976, the Russian heavyweight lifter won the Olympic Gold Medal for a lift of 536 pounds," Tom Deniston told us. "At that time the Paralympic heavyweight record was held by a Californian. His lift? 535 pounds." Deniston, a longtime Rag reader living in Colorado Springs, has his own take on things (see his letter following Schultz's).
"In 1983, the Zia Wheelers, a wheelchair basketball team, played the University of New Mexico's women's basketball team. The ladies were spotted 90 points. The Zia Wheelers won, 108-106," Deniston continued. "An athlete is an athlete, able or disabled, spending their life molding their body to perform at its peak. Why must jerks like Gazette editors belittle great accomplishments?"
Bigotry, we'd say.
Crippled athletes are good for inspiration -- and little else. Lest we forget, Beth Haller reminds uswhat the coverage of Casey Martin's ADA suit was like.
We know you got a Freedom Clearinghouse mailing in November. You'll get another one in a few weeks, too. We want you to join.
Freedom Clearinghouse -- at www.freedomclearinghouse.org -- is Ragged Edge and Mouth magazines' collaborative effort to get a grassroots push going to make sure states are giving people a choice to live in their communities, rather than forcing them into institutions.
The U.S. Supreme Court's Olmstead ruling last June made it possible -- and we hope Freedom Clearinghouse will make it happen. Watch for your mailing -- or join us now, online.
Back to table of contents