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Segregationists, however, were outnumbered by those who believed the show's opener reinforced a stereotype of black men as "sex-driven and without restraint," an argument that echoed Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy's sentiments.

"It could have been any player and I would have been outraged, but being an African-American, it particularly hurt me," Dungy said during his regularly scheduled mid-week media address.

"Southern gentle lady,/do not swoon./They've just hung a black man …" wrote Langston Hughes in the poem "Lynching Song." Laws banned "mongrelization" or miscegenation in 41 states. Griffith who repeated many of the myths behind lynch mobs in his 1915 film, "The Birth of a Nation," said Susan Courtney, a professor of comparative literature at the University of South Carolina and author of the book "Hollywood Fantasies of Miscegenation: Spectacular Narratives of Gender and Race." The first Hollywood blockbuster, "Birth of a Nation" was technically innovative in ways that still influence contemporary films.

In 1912, when heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson was the century's first black sports star, federal prosecutors hounded him for dating white women. It's also one of the few movies ever to feature Klansmen as heroes." 'Birth of a Nation' was the ur-text for American films, and it's completely structured around the fantasy of a black man raping a white woman," Courtney said. Seeking to get a step ahead of the competition, Hertz hired the high-profile Buffalo Bills running back for its national television campaign."O. was able, because of football and his great smile, to cross many of the racial barriers of the time," said Jerry Burgdoerfer, the Hertz exec who hired Simpson.

In the wake of Janet Jackson's "Nipplegate" performance during halftime of last year's Super Bowl telecast, and at a time when "moral values" may have swayed the outcome of the presidential election the previous week, some 50,000 complaints were said to have flooded the Federal Communications Commission in the days following that Monday night game between Owens' Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys.

Prominent among them were 38 who said they found the very idea of intimacy between a black man and a white woman offensive, some in very colorful -- and often inappropriate -- language." read several dozen), and the other half opposing Powell's stance ("Don't fine ABC! Most of the complaints arrived not Monday night or Tuesday, when actual viewers of the game wrote the most knee-jerk responses, but Wednesday and Thursday, after Powell's comments headlined network news.Many responses appeared to be so-called "Astroturf," crafted around the templates of various interest groups. The final third, however, were more detailed in their arguments.Despite an FCC official's estimate of the piles of complaints, the agency could produce only 1,997 in response to a recent Freedom of Information Act request.Those comments contained responses that were far from uniform outrage.

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Today, black and multi-racial athletes like Donovan Mc Nabb, Tiger Woods or Derek Jeter routinely command millions of dollars to headline national advertising campaigns, which in turn helps to ease social restrictions, including those against dating across racial or ethnic lines.

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