Jackson to picket O's opener Minority hiring plan 'unacceptable,' he says

April 01, 1993|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer Staff writer Robert Hilson contributed to this article.

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson was quoted yesterday giving a incorrect percentage of non-playing jobs held by minority employees of the Orioles -- 9 percent (22 of 176). The percentage for 22 of 176 is 12.5 percent. Moreover, Mr. Jackson, the article pointed out, failed to count at least two other minority employees non-playing positions.

* The Sun regrets the errors

The Rev. Jesse Jackson unveiled a nationwide campaign to improve Major League Baseball's minority hiring practices during news conference on the sidewalk outside Oriole Park yesterday.

On Monday, when the Orioles open the season against the Texas Rangers, the civil rights leader's Rainbow Commission for Fairness in Athletics will hit the pavement again with a protest rally and mass picketing.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Passing through those picket lines will be President Clinton, scheduled to throw out the first pitch.

Two days after Major League Baseball outlined a seven-point plan to increase minority involvement, Jackson dismissed that outline as "unacceptable," and demanded specific goals and timetables in its place.

"Baseball's plan is with all deliberate speed, which means driving uphill with your brakes on," said Jackson, who was flanked by leaders from the religious community, the NAACP and the Baltimore Urban League as he stood at the corner of Camden and Eutaw streets.

Jackson's campaign will bring the RCFA back to Baltimore for the July 13 All-Star Game. He promised to carry out protests through the American and National league playoffs and World Series. "We're in it for the long haul," he said.

The RCFA will visit all 28 major-league teams this summer, he said, to picket and disseminate information. Jackson said the U.S. Civil Rights Commission has agreed to investigate the actions of Major League Baseball, and his group will testify before the commission on April 30.

Armed with data on Major League Baseball's hiring practices, Jackson's initial thrust was aimed at the Orioles. According to numbers culled from the team's media guide, Jackson said only 9 percent (22 of 176) of the Orioles' non-playing jobs are held by minorities. He said none of the league's 28 teams responded to a questionnaire on the number of minorities employed.

"The reason Baltimore and other teams did not send back to us this data, they know this data will incriminate them," Jackson said. "And they count on the media to divert our attention away from good information."

Jackson's data also said that of 14 front-office "power positions," only one was black. Included in the list of power positions is Calvin Hill, vice president for administrative personnel. Excluded from the list, however, is Frank Robinson, the team's assistant general manager.

"We have an absolute commitment to fairness in hiring and expanding economic opportunity for all Americans," said Larry Lucchino, team president. "We've been working toward that goal for some time. We've been fortunate to be working with Baltimore's African-American Task Force on Professional Sports, which is led by [Del.] Pete Rawlings [D-Baltimore], and we have developed an ongoing working relationship with that & 2/3 organization. We receive their input and are making progress.

"Is there more that can be done? Yes. Are there problems that need to be addressed? Yes. Are the Orioles committed to doing more and resolving those problems? Absolutely."

The Orioles cited other minority exclusions from Jackson's list who do appear in the team's media guide. They include Dr. Lem Burnham, director of the employee assistance program, and Gustavo Gill, who serves as the team's Latin liaison.

"We're not apologetic [about] where we are," Hill said. "We feel very good about the spirit of this organization. Ed Williams [the late Orioles owner] in 1987 likened racism and sexism to a virus. You may say it's a retrovirus; it rears its head from time to time. We're not in a vacuum in this society, but we keep our commitment. We continue to be focused on our commitment."

Hill pointed to Major League Baseball figures that say front-office minority employees have increased from 2 percent in 1987 to 17 percent in 1992.

He also said the Orioles' relationship with the African-American Task Force has been helpful "in identifying where we should go."

Del. Curtis Stovall Anderson, D-Baltimore, a member of the Task Force, said the Orioles have made progress in recent months, but that more is needed.

"The bottom line is, we've been doing what Jesse says we need to do for the last four months," Anderson said. "The Orioles have been receptive. If that continues, they could be a model that Major League Baseball could follow."

Anderson said the Orioles have committed $50,000 to their minority advertising budget, "but it needs to be more. That's a drop in the bucket." He also wants more minority involvement among the vendors at Camden Yards.

During a breakfast at Bethel A.M.E. Church yesterday, Jackson urged more than 200 black Baltimore ministers and community leaders to support the Opening Day demonstration, which will last from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. He hopes to have more than 1,000 people participating. Protesters will gather at Pennsylvania Avenue and Dolphin Street at 9:30 a.m. Monday and travel by cars or buses to the stadium.

"We can make a big national statement Monday morning in Baltimore," Jackson said.

The Rev. Frank Reid, pastor at Bethel A.M.E., is chairman and spokesman for the Baltimore RCFA. Reid said his group will come prepared.

"We're coming informed about who is employed," Reid said. "We're also coming inspired to make a difference in economic empowerment for the entire community."

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