A businessman and philanthropist who volunteers as chairman of the Seattle Police Foundation is under fire this morning for also serving on the board of Take-Two Interactive.
As reported by the Seattle Times, Michael Malone (seen at left), a music entrepreneur and hotel owner, was one of the founders of the Seattle Police Foundation, a non-profit organization designed to support and honor the city's police officers.
Yesterday, however, controversial Miami attorney and anti-game activist Jack Thompson happened upon Malone's name listed as a Take-Two director while researching the company's web site. Malone's bio on the Take-Two site clearly states his connection to the Seattle Police Foundation.
Thompson immediately fired off an e-mail to the Foundation's board of directors as well as various media outlets, informing them that Malone was a member of Take-Two's board. Take-Two, of course, publishes the Grand Theft Auto series which allows players to commit animated violence against police officers.
Reaction to Malone's Take-Two connection was swift - and negative.
"I don't think anybody would argue that these video games are a detriment to the safety of police officers," said Jim Johnson, who is CEO of a local athletic club as well as a fellow Seattle Police Foundation board member. "I don't think Mike would want to stay on, and it would be very difficult for the board to support that. It's a direct conflict."
Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske praised Malone's past contributions in obtaining bulletproof vests and other equipment for SPD officers but expressed concern about the GTA connection.
"We've had officers, because of that equipment, who are in a better position to go home at night," Kerlikowske said. "But an association with a company that manufactures those games, that's certainly something I'd like to talk to Mike about."
Malone told the Seattle Times that he joined the Take-Two board in January, but did not inform the Police Foundation.
"I'm playing a temporary role in a company, with a very specific purpose," Malone said. "I don't have the same sense of conflict that I'm living two lives here."
Malone also told the newspaper that he is disturbed by GTA's level of violence and claims to have tried to broker meetings between Take-Two and an unspecified video game watchdog group.
"Because of the temporary nature of what I'm doing, I did not announce it," said Malone, who told the Times he was embarrassed by the publicity. "But I did, and I'm there. I'm going to have to deal with that. The work of the foundation is far too important."
The newspaper quoted Thompson saying that Malone could not receive money from Take-Two and still "portray himself as a friend of the officers who lay their lives on the line. I think it's unethical, hypocritical and duplicitous. The Seattle Police Foundation and the men and women they represent should be pretty upset."
Concerns over video game violence against police have an especially high profile in Washington state. The nation's first-ever state-level video game law was passed there in 2003. The statute, sponsored by Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D) made it illegal to sell games depicting violence against law enforcement officers to minors. Jack Thompson testified on behalf of Dickerson's bill, which was later struck down as unconstitutional.
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