Sports Illustrated President E. Bruce Hallett showed he had at least one of the three qualities a leader must have when he spoke to West Chester University on Thursday. “A leader should have conviction, courage, and compassion,” said Hallett, who pulled out the courage card by standing in front of a room full of students and faculty to discuss subjects ranging from leadership to the controversy surrounding S’s Swimsuit Edition.
Hallett talked briefly about his reign as president of TIME magazine in the mid-90s, and mentioned that at the time of the magazine’s founding in 1923, “there was nothing like TIME, nothing had its ambition. What really got TIME rolling was its leadership.” He said Briton Hadden and Henry Luce, the two creators, were 25 and 24 respectively at the time. Hallett asked those in attendance if they could imagine starting what would become one of the world’s leading magazines in their mid-twenties. Soft whispers and head-shaking answered his question.
“Leadership is clearly a learned skill,” Hallett continued. “It is not given, it is gotten. It’s an event of the heart. It’s not about being a great public speaker or being brainy. [Leadership] comes from the heart.” He cited Margaret Sanger, the brains behind birth control, and former President John F. Kennedy as great leaders who exemplified conviction, courage, and compassion. “Kennedy never said ‘Let’s try to put a man on the moon.’ He said, ‘We’re going to put a man on the moon.'”
Hallett’s position as a leader came to a head when the floor was opened for a question-and-answer session. One student asked about the love-hate relationship between fans and athletes, and where SI stands on the topic. “We’re very concerned about alienation between fans and athletes, and worried that fans hate athletes and athletes hate fans,” said Hallett. “We believe that sports contribute wonderful things to the national character [of the United States’]. We talk to fans who love sports as much as we do, who are as passionate about sports as we are,” he said. Hallett also voiced his opinion on performance-enhancing drugs and said that while they have been a part of sports for a long time, they are a “bad habit.”
The Q-and-A session switched from one controversial subject to another when Dr. Karin Volkwein asked for SI’s reasons behind printing a swimsuit edition that shows images of beautiful women, when at the same time the magazine seeks to promote female athletes. “Women are represented as beautiful bodies first, athletes second,” said Volkwein, who teaches Sports Culture and Society classes. Hallett’s response danced around the question, and he ended the discussion when he said, “We think of the swimsuit issue very differently [than the other issues]. We think of it like Mardis Gras: It happens in February, it’s a lot of fun, it’s a little bit naughty, but it’s mostly harmless.” After Hallett’s session was over, Volkwein said she didn’t feel Hallett answered her question adequately. “I said something that was critical, and he did not want to respond,” she said.
The last question of the session referred to the decline in recreational buildings and areas in Philadelphia that children use to play sports. Hallett said SI is aware of this issue and is working to combat it. “[The decline] was the elephant in the room that nobody saw for the longest time,” said Hallett. “Where else will kids learn how to play by the rules, and learn the value of winning and the humility of losing? Kids that don’t play sports don’t learn the values that make them great citizens.”