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Philadelphia 76ers basketball star Allen Iverson agreed to change some lyrics on his upcoming hip-hop album after meetings last week with civil-rights groups and NBA commissioner David Stern.
Iverson, who records under the name Jewelz, came under fire when Philadelphia radio station WPHI-FM (103.9) began playing an edited version of the song "40 Bars," from Iverson's album, "Non-Fiction," tentatively set for February release.
The unedited lyrics, which include references to gun violence as well as the line, "Come to me with those f**got tendencies and you'll be sleeping with the maggots be," drew the attack of C. DeLores Tucker, president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Association for Nonviolence.
A half-dozen protesters picketed the radio station last Monday, and Tucker -- who was active, along with Tipper Gore, in the Parent's Music Resource Center's successful attempt to get record labels to place "parental advisory"
stickers on their releases -- asked the station to stop playing the song, according to station general manager Darryl Trent.
The lyrics that [Tucker] is attacking don't even appear in the version that we play," Trent said, adding that the edited version replaces potentially offensive words with sound effects. Edited version or not, Trent, who said Tucker declined an offer to go on the air and voice her concerns, maintains that criticism of hip-hop lyrics often misses the point.
The youth and people in hip-hop don't take those words literally," he said. "These people are taking their opinions and overlaying them on a culture they don't understand.
Neither Iverson nor Tucker could be reached for comment. "40 Bars" is not commercially available.
While NBA commissioner Stern decided not to discipline Iverson, he had harsh words for the player and his music.
The lyrics that have been attributed to Allen Iverson's soon-to-be-released rap CD are coarse,
offensive, and anti-social," Stern said in a statement issued Thursday. "Whatever constitutional rights of free speech an individual may have, there is no constitutional right to participate in the NBA and I have the power... to disqualify players who engage in offensive conduct -- including inappropriate speech.
Stern said that Iverson "has done a disservice to himself, the Philadelphia 76ers, his teammates, and perhaps all NBA players." Stern said Iverson told him he would remove some offensive lyrics from his upcoming album.
Trent said that Stern's statement, which emphasized the commissioner's right to take disciplinary action, backs Iverson into a corner.
If he doesn't change the lyrics, he could get suspended," Trent said. "If he does change the lyrics, then he's lame in the eyes of the hip-hop community.
An NBA players' union representative who sat in on the meeting with Stern told the Associated Press that Iverson already had changed the lyrics
before the meeting. Iverson's label, Universal Records, had no comment.
On Tuesday, Iverson and his lawyer, Larry Woodward, met with Tucker and representatives of Philadelphia's NAACP and Gay and Lesbian Task Force, according to the "Philadelphia Inquirer." Calls to Woodward, the NAACP, and the task force were not returned.
Trent said that callers to the radio station, which is playing "40 Bars" in minimal rotation, are of two minds about the song -- half think it's OK, the other half don't like it.
But not one person has called in with a problem with the lyrics," Trent said. "If they're offended by anything, they're offended by the fact that they think Allen has been singled out.
Sports fans seem to agree with Stern's decision. In a poll of 112,893 visitors to ESPN's Web site, 72.1 percent of the respondents said that the NBA should not take any action against Iverson.