Jackson in town to stir interest in All-Star protest Baseball ignores civil rights law, he says

July 12, 1993|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson visited a West Baltimore church yesterday to whip up support for his All-Star Game protest tomorrow and to drive home his message that racism in professional baseball is a symptom of broader problems in the United States.

Mr. Jackson said baseball has failed, after seven months of discussion, to implement an affirmative action plan that sets goals and timetables for minority hiring.

He said the federal government's failure to require such a plan is an indication that both major political parties have retreated on civil rights, a trend he said began 12 years ago with the Reagan administration.

His message at Enon Baptist Church, at Edmondson Avenue and Schroeder Street, was intended to quell critics who say his attack on Major League Baseball is not relevant to problems facing blacks in the United States.

"Baseball is a visible opponent that typifies the flouting of the law," Mr. Jackson said. "And far beyond the entertainment and highlights of the game, athletics is on a growth curve faster than any industry in America."

He called baseball a $90 billion industry, with television revenues, procurement deals and other sales included in the figure.

His National Rainbow Coalition plans to picket outside Oriole Park at Camden Yards before the All-Star Game tomorrow to challenge what he calls professional baseball's discriminatory hiring and promotion policy. He said he planned to return today to Enon Baptist Church for two more meetings, including one at

7 p.m. to generate support for the Camden Yards rally. The rally is planned from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow.

In an interview, Mr. Jackson said he has gained the support of Ohio Democratic Sen. Howard Metzenbaum. Last week, he said, he asked Webster Hubbell, the assistant U.S. Attorney General, to investigate his allegations that professional baseball has not complied with civil rights laws on hiring and promotion.

"We're not asking for reparations. Affirmative action is a conservative remedy for past discrimination," Mr. Jackson said. He said that while the federal government is prepared to spend billions of dollars to help bail Russia out of financial despair, "There is no plan to bail out Baltimore or Philadelphia or Chicago or New York."

"This protest Tuesday is within the context of our fighting for an urban policy," he said.

Mr. Jackson said baseball has not opened opportunities for blacks at high levels of management, noting that no Major League team employs a black at any of its top seven jobs.

"You have subsidized Camden Yards with tax dollars," Mr. Jackson told the all-black congregation at Enon Baptist. "You have a right to demand fairness and justice."

Mr. Jackson noted that his protest was not directed at the Baltimore Orioles in particular, but at Major League Baseball. He said top baseball officials have refused to make any changes since his organization raised the issue in January.

"Baseball is guilty of racism and sexism, that is well-documented," he said. "They feel protected by antitrust schemes, and in their arrogance feel they will not honor the law."

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