The NAACP Calls Time

July 08, 1993

After a week of avoidable recrimination, the national NAACP leadership has prudently backed away from its hasty promise to support Charlotte, N.C., in its effort to win one of the National Football League franchises to be awarded this fall.

The Baltimore-based national civil rights organization never intended to favor Charlotte over other cities competing for the two expansion franchises, according to the latest words of its new executive director, Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. The NAACP will look with favor on any of the other competitors, such as Baltimore, he says, that sign pledges similar to Charlotte's agreement last week.

That is precisely what state and city officials, local NAACP officers and other community leaders have advised the national organization to do since the news of Dr. Chavis' statement in Charlotte caused consternation here. We continue to be puzzled why it took Dr. Chavis and William F. Gibson, the national chairman, so long to clear up what may have been a simple misunderstanding, as they insist, or a thoughtless blunder, as it now appears. But since they have backtracked, Marylanders will be content to lay the controversy to rest.

Dr. Chavis says that the NAACP's business is "creating economic opportunities for all African-Americans" and that it will do all it can to advance that cause. On that point we can all agree.

As far as building a football stadium is concerned, Baltimore will have no trouble satisfying the NAACP. The Maryland Stadium Authority gave minorities a far better deal in building Oriole Park than Charlotte's Jerry Richardson promised the NAACP. We are confident the rival Baltimore groups can also match Mr. Richardson with minority participation in the football organization here.

There are some lessons to be learned from the episode. In his Charlotte news conference last Thursday, Dr. Chavis, a North Carolinian by birth, said he wanted to send the NFL a clear signal "that we want a franchise here in Charlotte."

The Baltimore metropolitan region rose united to protest what appeared to be a Chavis endorsement of Charlotte over other competing cities. African-American public officials and community leaders were instrumental in convincing Dr. Chavis and Dr. Gibson to re-evaluate their position. There can be no doubt in the NFL upper echelons how strongly the Baltimore region feels about getting major league football back.

Now Dr. Chavis, who has been leading the national NAACP for only three months, should take the time to acquaint himself with the special regard Maryland has for his organization, a regard rooted deep in NAACP history. It was demonstrated by the substantial public money invested in bringing its headquarters here. The NAACP is a national organization, but Baltimore is now its home town. Baltimoreans expect their hospitality to be reciprocated not with gifts but with good will.


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