Thursday, May 18, 2000
UH basketball coach clarifiesBy Pat Bigold
his personal opinions coincide
with multi-ethnic group's stance
They didn't meet face to face.
But University of Hawaii basketball coach Riley Wallace and a local multi-ethnic coalition which called last week for his removal have exchanged letters.
A spokeswoman for the coalition, representing 10 different organizations and headed by the African-American Association, said last night she was grateful for Wallace's letter.
"We felt it was a conciliatory letter," said Faye Kennedy, a retired social worker speaking for the coalition. "We concluded our letter to coach Wallace by saying, 'We feel nothing can be gained by prolonging this controversy and we thank you for the courtesy of your letter.' "
She said Wallace's letter arrived Monday and a reply was sent to him the next day.
Wallace's office has issued no comments on the matter.
The coalition, which did not reveal the contents of Wallace's letter, had taken exception to Wallace's remarks in an April 29 Star-Bulletin story concerning the Confederate flag.
When asked by a reporter how he felt about the NCAA's threat to yank its events from South Carolina if that state didn't remove the Confederate flag from its statehouse dome, Wallace said the NCAA should steer clear of politics. He said South Carolinians had a right "to work out their own problems."
The coalition said that Wallace's comment called into question his "racial attitudes."
Asked in what way Wallace's letter was "conciliatory," Kennedy said, "It was conciliatory to the extent that he said his personal opinions coincide with ours about the Confederate flag being a symbol of oppression."
She said that Wallace also contended that "some of his statements were misconstrued by the reporter."
The coalition had originally addressed its call to outgoing university president Kenneth Mortimer and the Board of Regents, but did not receive a response from either.
"We had hoped to have some kind of official statement," said Kennedy.
Mortimer did state in response to media questions that Wallace was only exercising his right to freedom of speech.
"We feel we have just as much freedom of speech to take the position we took," said Kennedy. "No one has a lock on freedom of speech."
Asked if she still favors Wallace's removal "as soon as contractually possible," Kennedy said, "No comment."
She added that she is willing to meet with Wallace or any university administrator.
At this point, there are no plans for such a meeting.