Setting more than records

COSTA MESA — Don't ever underestimate the impact that professional sports has on the psyche of the American people, especially those who live and breathe athletics.

When Lennox Lewis, the professional boxer, announced in a commercial that "Real men don't hit women," his words probably made some men think twice about spousal abuse.

And when Drew Brees, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, spoke out against bullies in schools, his advice didn't fall on deaf ears — he had just led his team to win the Super Bowl.

The impact of athletes' words on others was the message delivered Tuesday by Leigh Steinberg, the Newport Beach sports agent who partly inspired the Tom Cruise film "Jerry Maguire."

Steinberg spoke at the California Diversity and Inclusion Conference sponsored by the University of Phoenix at the Hilton Orange County.

"This concept of athletes being role models … it's made a difference," said Steinberg, 61, inside the Terrace Fountain room. "Our athletes bleed diversity. They are a living, breathing testimony to diversity. They're not just five talking heads on 'This Week in Washington.' They're real people who live with one another on and off the field and in the locker rooms."

Steinberg, dressed in a red tie and sports jacket, urged the audience of 100 to get involved in fighting racial stereotypes. He urged them to join anti-defamation leagues, saying, "In my view, the most overwhelming issue of our time is people getting along with other people."


touched on some of Jerry Maguire's more famous moments, lending insight into how the now infamous quote uttered by actor Cuba Gooding Jr., "Show me the money!" came to be in real life.

The film's director, Cameron Crowe, followed Steinberg and Tim McDonald, an NFL safety for the St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals, while he was working on the script back in the 1990s. At one point, Crowe asked McDonald what he wanted out of his football career.

"And Tim said," according to Steinberg, that "he was looking for a team to 'show him respect' and to 'show him love,' and 'Lou Dobbs' Money Matters' was playing in the background."

Eventually, that's how the phrase, "Show me the money," worked its way into the script — even though it never came out of McDonald's mouth.

But some things depicted in the flick are real, Steinberg said, like Warren Moon's induction into the NFL Hall of Fame, the first black quarterback to earn the distinction.

Steinberg, who has represented Oscar de la Hoya, Troy Aikman and Matt Leinart, said such accomplishments only serve to narrow the gap in racial barriers, not divide them.

He said he recalls visiting the college dorm rooms of many prospective athletes at the time and discovering two popular posters on the walls: Martin Luther King Jr., and Moon.

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