NAACP just out for its fair share

KEN ROSENTHAL

July 03, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

They're all out to get us -- the NFL, the NAACP, probably the NBA and NBC, too. The entire world is gathering in a smoke-filled room to prevent Baltimore from getting a football team.

Alas, the conspiracy theory has no merit.

They're all just out for themselves.

So, sports fans, how do you win an endorsement from the NAACP? Get accused of discrimination, then sign "fair-share" agreements to make everything all better.

Of course, now it's not an endorsement. The NAACP backtracked feverishly yesterday, trying to appease the city and state that gave it $1.1 million to help buy its Baltimore headquarters.

Oops, forgot about that.

Two days ago, NAACP executive director Benjamin Chavis said, "The national NAACP is going to work hard . . . to send a clear signal to the NFL that we want a franchise here in Charlotte."

But yesterday, Fred H. Rasheed, director of the NAACP's Economic Development Program, said there was no official endorsement. "I think the comment came out of the blue, really," he said. "Believe me, it was not thought out, and I was in on most of the negotiations."

All right, so who gets fired?

No one, silly.

The NAACP just got carried away after securing a landmark agreement with a company that is the subject of lawsuits and Justice Department action alleging discrimination.

Poor Boogie Weinglass, he got caught napping. If only his Merry-Go-Round stores had turned away minority customers, Baltimore might be the leader in the race for an expansion franchise.

That's the message the NAACP sent at the love-in it staged with Jerry Richardson at a news conference Thursday, but don't blame the civil-rights organization for snubbing its adopted home.

It's all about money.

Just like with the NFL.

The NAACP is exploiting an opportunity, and if it took a deal with the devil, so be it. Maybe Richardson's Flagstar Corp. is racist, maybe not. But at least now it has to play ball.

Gov. Schaefer and Mayor Schmoke can complain all they want. If Baltimore covets the same, uh, endorsement, its two ownership groups can get busy putting together even better "fair-share" packages.

Would it matter? Probably not. The NFL is sincere about minority hiring to the same extent as Richardson -- only when it affects the bottom line.

As we all know, the NFL and Charlotte are secretly holding hands. And now, with Richardson transforming a negative into a positive, the league owners can resume drooling over their favorite untapped market.

The entire episode amounts to another sad commentary on the tenuous state of race relations in this country, but if everything else is for sale, why not affirmative action?

This way, Richardson gets his public-relations coup, and the NAACP gets what it covets most: jobs.

If Charlotte is awarded a team, 15 percent of the front office will be black, as will 10 percent of the stadium construction workers and 10 percent of the suppliers.

After receiving such a commitment, why should the NAACP cling to the high ground? The deal is projected to bring African-Americans $26 million in the first year alone.

Major League Baseball offers minorities lip service, but here's Richardson -- however cynical his intentions -- taking a firm stand.

Yes, he lacks minority representation in his ownership group. Yes, lawsuits are pending against Denny's, the restaurant chain operated by Flagstar.

Suddenly, all that is secondary. The NAACP is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. That's precisely what it's doing -- advancing the cause.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that Chavis is from North Carolina. Maybe he's just being a good neighbor. More likely, he wanted to establish a standard for professional sports teams everywhere.

It's hindsight, but after the first accusations against Denny's surfaced, the two Baltimore ownership groups should have contacted the NAACP immediately. Imagine the pressure Richardson would have faced if Baltimore had staged a pre-emptive "fair-share" strike.

Weinglass thought including a minority partner would give him the upper hand over Richardson and his Baltimore rival, Malcolm Glazer. But now the rules have changed, as they will a dozen more times before this process is over.

Back to third-and-long.

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