What they told Dr. Chavis

Gregory P. Kane

July 08, 1993|By Gregory P. Kane

NOW that the national leadership of the NAACP has come to its senses and corrected the mega-boo-boo of the year -- endorsing Charlotte's bid for a National Football League franchise -- we can imagine the points made by wiser and cooler heads in the organization as they privately explained the facts of life to the Carolinians who are running it.

1. The NAACP has more important things to concern itself with than which city gets the next NFL franchise. Black men in the United States have the highest murder rate of any ethnic group )) in the industrialized world. In fact, men in some Third-World countries have a longer life expectancy than African-American men in the United States. It would be nice if at least one of the traditional civil rights groups addressed this issue.

2. The NAACP is a national organization. Its commitment is to black people across the country. Yet it gave the impression that it favors black people in Charlotte over blacks in Memphis, St. Louis, Jacksonville and Baltimore. If ever there was an issue on which the NAACP should have stayed neutral, this was it.

3. Justifying the endorsement of Charlotte by claiming the city had signed a "fair-share" agreement guaranteeing African-American participation in the profits of the franchise was a weak excuse at best. As Del. Howard "Pete" Rawlings pointed out, Baltimore may come up with a better fair-share agreement than Charlotte. So might some of the other cities.

4. Consider whom the fair-share agreement was made with: the CEO of the same company that owns Denny's. Yes, the company that can't serve a plate of eggs to six black Secret Service agents in Annapolis. When you consider the other discrimination lawsuits filed against Denny's, the pattern of discrimination in at least four different states, the charge by a former Denny's manager that upper-echelon management encouraged the discrimination, and when you further consider that the acts of discrimination occurred even after Denny's was under a court order to end them, you have to wonder what reasoning powers the NAACP national leadership are using if they seriously believe the agreement will be honored in Charlotte.

5. By making the announcement supporting Charlotte's bid at virtually the same time that the NAACP was signing the agreement with Denny's parent company, the organization made look as if a deal had been struck. It may not have been, but that's how it looked.

jTC 6. The national leadership conveniently forgot that the state of Maryland helped finance its move to Baltimore. Do any of the organization's executives know enough Latin to understand quid pro quo?

The retreat by the NAACP national leaders on the endorsement has made the organization -- at least for the moment -- a laughingstock. First we hear Ben Chavis making the endorsement. Then we hear another NAACP spokesman back-pedaling. Then a say-nothing statement is issued over the weekend. Finally, full retreat.

What happened, then? Dr. Chavis, a North Carolina native, fell victim to The Fever. The Fever afflicts those who desperately want an NFL franchise and will go to any lengths to get one. We should not expect Ben Chavis to be less susceptible to it than the business and political leaders of Baltimore, Memphis, Jacksonville and St. Louis. Dr. Chavis' mistake was to try to make his personal preference the official policy of a respected civil rights organization.

I say that despite the fact that I don't think Baltimore should get the franchise. We can shell out millions in public money for a new stadium -- and maybe get a 20-year lease out of the deal, but there's no guarantee the franchise won't eventually end up elsewhere. Besides, Point 1 above is well taken: There are more important things to spend public money on.

Gregory P. Kane is a Baltimore writer.

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