`Ghettopoly' board game causes uproar

Advocates for minorities decry its stereotyping, press for a halt to sales

October 11, 2003|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

A new Monopoly-style board game based on racial stereotypes has sparked an uproar among African-Americans and others nationwide, with the NAACP calling this week for production and sale of the game to stop.

Hasbro Inc., the maker of Monopoly, threatened yesterday to sue the game's creator if he didn't immediately stop selling "Ghettopoly."

The game includes among its board pieces a rock of crack cocaine, a pimp, a basketball and a 40-ounce bottle of beer. Advertised on a Ghettopoly Web site, the game was the brainchild of David Chang, an Asian-American who has been marketing it through Urban Outfitters, an international chain based in Philadelphia that sells mostly apparel but also has a line of toys.

The game's object is to put crack houses or housing projects in the worst neighborhoods on the board while trying to avoid being car-jacked, shot or addicted to drugs. For example, one game card, titled Hustle, says: "You are a little short on loot, so you decided to stick up a bank. Collect $75." Another reads: "You got yo whole neighborhood addicted to crack. Collect $50 from each playa."

Nationally syndicated talk show host Tom Joyner, whose morning radio show reaches millions of listeners, denounced the game this week. Officials at Hasbro and members of prominent Asian organizations have also condemned the game. And Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, wrote to Chang.

"It is disturbing that you would choose to promote and capitalize off such negative aspects of society that cause great harm to the African-American community at large," Mfume said in his letter Thursday. "The NAACP has worked for over 94 years to promote social and racial equality. We will not sit by quietly and allow this type of insult to occur."

The NAACP has urged retailers to stop carrying the game and people to boycott stores that do.

Members of the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium and the Organization of Chinese Americans also decried the game.

"It is unacceptable that Urban Outfitters and Chang should profit by promoting offensive negative stereotypes of minorities," said Karen K. Narasaki, president and executive director of NAPALC. "We demand that Urban Outfitters be a responsible corporate citizen and remove the game from its shelves."

Urban Outfitters officials did not return repeated calls for comment, although yesterday, a woman at corporate headquarters in Philadelphia who identified herself only as a receptionist said the game has been pulled from the shelves. Last week in Seattle, officials at an Urban Outfitters store pulled the game after members of the Seattle NAACP protested outside the business' doors.

Efforts to reach Chang were unsuccessful.

Mark Morris, director of public relations for Hasbro Games - whose parent company acquired Monopoly creator Parker Brothers in 1991 - said the toy conglomerate first got wind of Ghettopoly in the summer. Yesterday it demanded that Chang immediately stop selling it.

Hasbro has been inundated with e-mails from offended consumers, a spokesman said.

"We became aware of this when someone found this game online ... and we sent a cease-and-desist letter to this guy back in June," he said. "We've made repeated attempts to get him to respond."

Urban Outfitters has two stores in Philadelphia and one in Washington. A manager at the Washington store said the game was not being sold there, although an employee who answered the telephone this week directed a caller to the board game's Web site, which says the $29.95 game is sold out and on back order. It was unclear yesterday whether any other retailers are carrying Ghettopoly.

The Web site advertises future games including Redneckopoly and Hiphopopoly.

Jon'lethia Adams, 28, an office assistant at Gallaudet University in Washington, said she's angry about the game and dismisses statements by Chang last week in the Seattle Times defending it and saying he wasn't picking on black people.

"I think it's sad he's making economic venture out of some of the hardships some of my people are going through," she said. "That the ghetto is thought of as a game when it's a way of life for some people. ... Most people are striving to overcome that and to do the best they can with the resources they have."

NAACP Board Chairman Julian Bond said the game "is just another example of the contempt in which some hold African-Americans, feeling that we can be dismissed and scorned without fear of retribution."

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