Md. stung by NAACP's NFL stance

July 03, 1993|By James Bock and Jon Morgan | James Bock and Jon Morgan,Staff Writers Staff writers Sandy Banisky and Marina Sarris contributed to this article.

While Gov. William Donald Schaefer called the NAACP's endorsement of a National Football League franchise for Charlotte, N.C., a "slap in the face," there were hints yesterday that the Baltimore-based civil rights group would modify its stance.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said that the Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., the NAACP's executive director, told him late yesterday that the NAACP did not intend to oppose Baltimore's bid for an NFL team. Dr. Chavis would call Mr. Schaefer to try to ease tensions, the mayor said he was told.

Last night, officials of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People were drafting an explanation of Thursday's surprise endorsement, which angered and dismayed Maryland leaders, but were unsure when the statement would be released.

Baltimore is competing with Charlotte and three other cities for one of two franchises to be awarded by the professional football league this fall.

The NAACP's economic development chief said yesterday the civil rights group's endorsement was made off-the-cuff without considering its impact on Baltimore.

"No one really focused on the notion that Baltimore was competing for a franchise," said Fred H. Rasheed, who negotiates the NAACP's corporate agreements. "There was never any mention by [Charlotte interests] or us about endorsing the application for a franchise. I think the comment came out of the blue, really. Believe me, it was not thought out, and I was in on most all of the negotiations."

At an Annapolis news conference yesterday, Governor Schaefer issued a pointed reminder of the $1.1 million in city and state aid that helped the nation's oldest civil rights group buy its headquarters in Northwest Baltimore.

"I think this is a slap in the face to the mayor of the city of Baltimore, and it certainly is a slap at me personally," Mr. 'N Schaefer said. "I think they're absolutely wrong in trying to take a franchise away from us when we're trying to build jobs.

"Trying to play one city against another on race is wrong -- absolutely wrong. I strongly object to what the NAACP has done."

Mayor Schmoke urged the NAACP to endorse Baltimore's quest for an NFL franchise.

NAACP leaders "will have to answer to the membership for their decision to get involved in this, but now that they are, I hope they will help Baltimore," said Mr. Schmoke, a lifetime member of the NAACP and one of Maryland's leading black politicians.

When George N. Buntin Jr., executive director of the NAACP's Baltimore city chapter, arrived at his West 26th Street office yesterday to pick up some papers, he found television crews at the front door and the phone ringing inside.

"Give Baltimore the ball, NAACP," one caller told Mr. Buntin and then hung up.

'Fair-share agreements'

The controversy was touched off Thursday when Dr. Chavis, the NAACP's executive director, said in Charlotte that "the national NAACP is going to work hard . . . to send a clear signal to the NFL that we want a franchise here in Charlotte, and we want it under Jerry Richardson."

Mr. Richardson, a former Baltimore Colt, is chairman and chief executive officer of Flagstar Cos. Inc., a Spartanburg, S.C., conglomerate whose Denny's restaurant chain has been the target of several racial discrimination lawsuits this year.

The NAACP signed "fair-share agreements" Thursday with Flagstar and Richardson Sports, Mr. Richardson's bid to land an NFL franchise for Charlotte. The Richardson interests pledge in the accords to actively recruit black employees, managers, franchise owners, suppliers and, in the case of the football franchise, investors.

But Del. Howard P. Rawlings, the Baltimore Democrat who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said, "We'll have a better deal in Baltimore." He said agreements for %J construction of a new football stadium here exceed the level of black participation in the NAACP-Charlotte deal.

NFL officials declined to comment on the potential impact of the NAACP endorsement, other than to applaud Mr. Richardson's handling of the discrimination charges. Privately, they have made it clear they are monitoring the allegations against Mr. Richardson's companies and have found no evidence linking him to any of it.

But, they say, the awarding of NFL franchises is likely to be a hard-nosed business matter settled by factors such as a city's size and the financial stability of its ownership group.

"They don't have a vote," one NFL official said of the NAACP, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Rasheed, director of the NAACP's Economic Development Program, said the deal with Richardson Sports grew out of talks started by an NAACP official in Charlotte more than two years ago. The national civil rights group did not approach other potential NFL ownership groups for commitments.

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