Charlotte 1, NAACP 0

July 03, 1993

The Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., new executive director of the NAACP, has a warped sense of fair play and loyalty. As part of a package deal with the corporate owners of the Denny's chain of restaurants, lately charged with a pattern of discrimination against African Americans, Dr. Chavis endorsed that group's bid to win for Charlotte, N.C., the National Football League franchise Baltimore is also seeking. All this without an advance word to the state and city that chipped in more than $1 million to help provide the NAACP with a new national headquarters here.

Perhaps the NAACP, as a national organization, doesn't owe its new home town any special consideration. But it doesn't owe Baltimore a gratuitous rebuff either. As a national icon in the struggle for racial equality, the NAACP could have fulfilled its legitimate role by asking all five competitors for the two NFL expansion franchises to agree to certain goals for minority participation. It should not have taken sides arbitrarily and secretly, particularly in the last stages of a highly competitive situation.

Dr. Chavis has sent out perverse advice to firms that discriminate against minorities: Find yourself a receptive black leader; then profess a conversion to black and white togetherness; then cut a deal that gives the NAACP some condescending crumbs while you win big in bringing a coveted sports franchise to your headquarters city. That's what has happened in Charlotte. No point in being fair from the start, as Baltimore and most of its business community have been. You don't get anything from the NAACP for that.

And what did Dr. Chavis get for offending his neighbors, especially that part of the Baltimore community which would be emotionally devastated if it loses a successor to the beloved Colts? A supposedly reformed Denny's to be sure. Some promises for minority employment and concessions in the new football franchise. But, note this: Minority construction workers and contractors got a much better deal in building Oriole Park and presumably would do as well or better at a new football stadium here. Was it coincidence the deal suddenly fell into place after 18 months of negotiations just as the competition for the football franchise entered the final stretch? Or was some sort of Carolina connection at work, since Dr. Chavis is a native of North Carolina and Dr. William F. Gibson, the NAACP chairman, is a South Carolina dentist?

Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke are understandably outraged at the NAACP's defection. So are members of the local business community, who were recently solicited by Dr. Chavis' organization for badly needed financial assistance. The NAACP can be a valued neighbor with legitimate claims on this city's hospitality, or it can be a transient taking what it can get and giving back nothing. But not both. With luck, the NAACP's endorsement of Charlotte will prove irrelevant, but that makes it no less obnoxious to its new home town.

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