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.Jon Entine specializes in sports and race, business ethics, socially responsible investing, and green brand marketing.

February 27, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rick Telander issued this apology for the gross inaccuracy in his column about "Taboo."

I would like to apologize to author Jon Entine for a mistake in a Feb. 13 column about his book, Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports And Why We Are Afraid to Talk About It. I wrote that a USA Today review of the book carried the headline, "Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid." The headline actually read, "Some Things Not Better Left Unsaid."

The link to Telander's apology is:

Jon Entine commentary on Rick Telander's "journalism":

The original February 13 column by Rick Telander, "Color Commentary," could easily have left readers with the misleading impression that Taboo is being received as a racist diatribe (although he himself clearly found the book neither racist nor polemical). "Reviews of Taboo have been as uptight as anything," Telander writes, "with reviewers figuratively holding the book the way an exterminator might hold a spraying skunk."

Telander cited three sources to buttress this incendiary conclusion. "’Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid," is how USA Today titled its review," he writes. Minor problem: The title of the article was 180 degrees the opposite: "Some Things Not Better Left Unsaid." In fact, columnist Christine Brennan praised the book, writing "the dialogue that [Entine] almost certainly will provoke is not the problem. It’s the solution."

Telander’s second citation was from a New York Times column. "Entine’s research is ‘simultaneously silly and dangerous,’" quotes Telander. Oops. Robert Lipsyte wasn’t referring to me or my book, but to the issue: "Sports race science can be viewed as silly and dangerous," was the accuratequote. Lipsyte actually praised Taboo as "consistently interesting, readable, provocative, possibly wrongheaded" -- hardly a skunk like renunciation.

Telander’s third citation -- he quoted a Washington Post reviewer that Taboo "underplays the political and cultural land minds underlying the discussion" -- was equally misleading. Paul Ruffins actually admired the book. "Because it bravely tackles the exhaustive list of ideas that must be considered in any open-minded discussion of this topic, Taboo could well be the most intellectually demanding sports book ever written," Ruffins wrote. "Taboo is an informed exploration of a fascinating phenomenon. Entine marshals such an impressive array of evidence that we should no longer be content to explain why blacks excel at certain sports by simply resorting to the old cultural argument that athletics have been the only avenues of upward mobility that were truly open to them. He’s raised the argument to new heights."

No skunks in these comments-- or in fact in any of the two dozen reviews to date for that matter.

Taboo has received consistently positive reviews. As Sports Illustrated has written, Taboo is a "balanced, well-reasoned and?above all?calm explanation of the issue. …It is no small thing to make a bold effort, to discuss unflinchingly, what we really talk about when we talk about race and sports. These days, you could even call it progressive."

Taboo is not so much a sports book as it is a thought-provoking look at what defines us as human. It debunks facile theories of race that have been used for hundreds of years to justify racism and even genocide. Most important, it shatters stereotypes that blacks or whites or any racial group are innately "superior" or "inferior." This is a book about the rich diversity of life, free of the myths of "ranking" that have plagued Western thought for centuries. That’s the message of Taboo; for the most part, it is being heard.