GUAM GETS APOLOGY FROM ESPN OVER SLUR

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By David V. Crisostomo

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 18) – ESPN.com yesterday apologized to Guam and its people.

In a phone interview from Bristol, Conn., ESPN.com Associate Communications Manager Paul Melvin read this statement from ESPN.com:

"ESPN.com sincerely apologizes for the use of hearsay in regards to families and daughters and for any directly or indirectly offensive statements in the story it ran about cockfighting on the island of Guam. It was insensitive and inappropriate and the story had been removed from the site and its archives."

The Pacific Daily News confirmed that the May 24 story by freelance writer Mike Ogle titled, "Blood, sweat and cockfighting," is no longer available on ESPN.com. Users clicking to the story link will get this message: "You've requested an ESPN.com page that does not exist." Ogle has not returned several e-mails for comment.

The apology was made after Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo and seven congressional minority leaders wrote a letter June 14 to ESPN Inc. and ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer demanding an apology to Guam and a retraction of Ogle's story that made derogatory comments about the island.

Bordallo has said she wanted to send a strong message to ESPN that the racial and cultural insensitivity in Ogle's article is simply unacceptable.

Fred Dungca, a 38-year-old maintenance worker from Barrigada, said "it's about time" for the apology.

"It's sad that (Ogle) was speaking negatively about Guam when he didn't spend enough time with the culture," Dungca said. " I don't care to hear from him again."

Melvin yesterday said Ogle is a freelance writer and not an ESPN.com staff member. Melvin said he could not discuss personnel matters and whether ESPN.com would continue its relationship with Ogle.

Melvin said ESPN is taking the matter seriously to "make sure something like this won't happen again."

Among the story's statements that have stirred anger are:

That cockfighting "is what locals do to pass the time on this 341-square-mile island, ... stuck all by itself in the middle of the Pacific. Truly, the middle of nowhere. Entertainment options are limited."

"People here fit into one of two categories. Either they've lived here their entire lives, or they're stationed here by the U.S. military."

"Guam, though, is not exactly Manhattan, ... and the crowd was not exactly the upper crust of the population. They say if an American man walks through a particular poor village in Guam, families will offer their daughters."

E-mail responses to Ogle's story continued to be sent to the Pacific Daily News yesterday.

Jim Kehler, who was stationed in Guam for 16 years and now lives in Florida, said Guam and its people deserve the apology.

"The 16 years I spent with the people of Guam were the best years of my life, and I doubt I will ever find anywhere on the face of the earth that will change that fact," Kehler wrote.

He also offered Ogle suggestions on what he should do if he should ever return to Guam.

"What I'd most recommend that you do on your next trip is get to know the people," Kehler said. "You won't find any people anywhere who are more warm, open, friendly and caring. ... I can assure you that most of them have hearts that are three times bigger than Washington, D.C., and they can teach you things about life that you've never learned if you grew up in America like I did."

Bordallo yesterday said she was pleased with ESPN.com's apology and is awaiting a letter from Bodenheimer that explains how the story was allowed to be published to begin with. She said the issue is not only about Guam's image, but is about fighting intolerance.

"(The other congressional members) detected racial discrimination immediately," Bordallo said. Among those who signed the congressional letter to ESPN were the leaders of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, as well as representatives from the U.S. territories and Hawaii.

Bordallo said the response to Ogle's story from both people on Guam and elsewhere has been overwhelming.

"I thank them for their caring and their interest on this issue," Bordallo said. "I appreciate it. I am with them on this issue and I will always be on the lookout for any type of discrimination or racial slur made against the people of Guam."

June 20, 2005

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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