Silent Night Protests Take Court Sixers' Star Iverson, Activists Shed Little Light On Meeting; Demonstrators Rally At Game

Posted: October 11, 2000

A handful of demonstrators gathered outside the First Union Center last night to protest Allen Iverson's raunchy rap CD while the 76ers guard did battle inside with the San Antonio Spurs.

"He was aware of our presence," said protest leader Asa Khalif, president and founder of Racial Unity.

The demonstrators toted signs reading "Women Are Not Bitches," and "Clergy Against Gangsta/Porn Rap."

"He showed he didn't care about the women he was disrespecting and he certainly didn't care about the gay and lesbian community," Khalif said.

Afterward, Iverson suggested the demonstration, however tame, was an exercise in unsportsmanlike behavior.

"I don't think something like that is fair to the people of Philadelphia who just want to see a basketball game," Iverson said.

"It's not fair at all for a kid to have to walk through something like that just to see a game. It's not fair for a parent to have to explain. . .why they have to walk through that."

The protest is the latest in the firestorm that has surrounded the 76ers star, who apparently didn't let the controversy hurt his game, scoring 15 points last night to help the Sixers beat the Spurs, 92-87.

Iverson, who met yesterday with civil rights groups and others offended by his new album, has said that despite the uproar, the CD will go on the market with no change in lyrics.

Among those to speak out publicly against his CD and it's "gangsta rap" single "40 Bars," are leading black community leaders, a U.S. senator and members of the Philadelphia NAACP.

Filmmaker Spike Lee yesterday called his music a "21st century minstrel show," telling WTXF-TV in an interview that while he loved Allen, "he's messing up on this one."

But for many of the 15,000-plus fans who filled the First Union Center last night, Iverson's music has little to do with the game of basketball.

Demonstrators drew some jeers from fans who were on their way inside for the first game of the Sixers' pre-season.

"Grab some brothers and take them to church," yelled a man who identified himself only as Jeff of West Mount Airy.

Wayne Diggs, 48, of Darby, said, "Allen Iverson is a basketball player who made a rap record. He's allowed to express himself. Allen Iverson is not raising my children, I'm raising my children."

"You gotta go to the parents, not here," Jeff said.

Jason Skinner, 23, an auto salesman from Pennsauken, N.J., said, "If people don't like it, they don't have to listen. His fans like it."

A few of the protesters entered the arena, but emerged a short time later, prevented from taking their signs inside by a court injunction.

Earlier yesterday, Iverson listened to complaints from leaders in the black, gay and lesbian communities at a closed-door meeting inside the Sixers' practice facility on the grounds of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The CD has been widely criticized because it reportedly uses derogatory terms to describe blacks, women and homosexuals.

Iverson and his Virginia Beach-based attorney, Larry Woodward, said they thought the meeting went great.

"I got a chance to listen to those people," Iverson said.

"That's all I wanted to do was listen and see what I could do to help."

Woodward wouldn't discuss any specifics of the meeting. But he said it opened discussions between Iverson and those who oppose his CD.

"I think a lot was accomplished by the fact that Allen met with the folks that are concerned about the album," Woodward said. "He listened to them. They listened to him. In my view, the way problems are solved is when people start talking."

The meeting lasted more than an hour.

But it was hard to gauge what black leaders like J. Whyatt Mondesire, president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the NAACP, made of the meeting.

The usually vociferous Mondesire and others quickly left the second-floor meeting room through a side door, avoiding the horde of media camped down the hall.

Mondesire, who previously described the lyrics as "misogynistic, nihilistic, pugilistic and homophobic," said last night that he was still troubled by Iverson's message.

"The argument we have is not with the 76ers organization. Our argument is with Mr. Iverson's choice of lyrics with his song."

The only glimpse into what happened at the meeting came from Khalif and Rita Adessa, executive director of the Philadelphia Lesbian and Gay Task Force.

"I think it was very interesting that Allen Iverson and the people who work with him invited members of the African-American community and the lesbian and gay community to talk with him today," Adessa said. "It suggests that at some level, Iverson actually may care about the community."

Said Khalif: "Allen Iverson will not admit to the fact that he used the word f-----, that he was disseminating against homosexual men and women. He will not admit to the fact that he disrespected women in his album. He will not give us a transcript of it."

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