Somebody asked me … about Ogden's Q7 ad, Under Armour

In which our columnist tackles a couple of inquiries from Sun readers

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October 31, 2012|Dan Rodricks

Somebody asked me, so …

John Miller of Abingdon, Harford County, wants to know if I share his impression of that pro-casino commercial featuring the mayor of Baltimore and Jonathan Ogden, once the left tackle of the Ravens. The mayor and Ogden support state authorization of a sixth casino and the legalization of table games at all casinos, including the Harrah's slated to be built near M&T Bank Stadium in the city. Maryland voters get their say on the question at the polls.

"Casino owners in West Virginia are spending millions against Question 7," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says in the commercial. "That upsets me, and that upsets Jonathan Ogden. You don't want to upset Jonathan Ogden."

"No, you don't," replies Ogden, who at 6-foot-9 towers over the mayor.

Rawlings-Blake then claims that voter approval of Question 7 could bring thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to Maryland, but "these West Virginia casinos want to  keep it all for themselves."

She finishes with a warning: "West Virginia, don't make me send Jonathan Ogden over there."

I've heard several people declare this commercial "cute," though not as entertaining as J.O.'s classic Go-Gebco insurance spots with the dancing Gebco girls.

"Is it just me," John Miller writes from Abingdon, "or do I detect a sense of threat of bullying by a very large man in the pro-Question 7 commercials recently aired featuring the mayor and a former Ravens player? What with all the campaigns to suppress bullying, I find this both inconsistent and disturbing. May I ask if you have an opinion on this?"

Thanks for asking, and the answer is yes, I have an opinion; but no, it's not the same as yours.

I didn't get the bullying thing at all.

What I got was this: The mayor of the city with the state's highest concentration of poverty and a multimillionaire retired athlete — one of the NFL's richest offensive linemen — pushing for more ways for people to gamble their money away.

What they're pushing includes a casino in Baltimore, where one in four citizens now live below the federal poverty line, according to the Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

From 2006 through 2009, Baltimore's poverty rate hovered near 20 percent. But by 2010, it was 25 percent. That is about 15 percentage points above the poverty rate for the rest of the state.

More than 37 percent of the children of Baltimore are living in poverty, the census says. Having a slots casino on the city's south side — with live table games, if Question 7 passes — will only provide more opportunity for their parents or guardians to burn away the rent money, or money needed for other necessities. Gambling will only make city poverty worse, leading to more stress and dysfunction in the lives of school-age children who are already dealing with too much of both.

Most people know this in their bones, and that must include Jonathan Ogden, who years ago established a charitable foundation to help "young people in disadvantaged communities develop self esteem through athletics and education."

It's a shame he got hooked in with this casino deal.

Somebody asked me, so …

Maureen Westwater had a question about Under Armour, the Baltimore-based, international sports apparel company located at Tide Point. "We read of the company's very good profits for the past quarters, and good for them," she wrote. "We read they were relocating the offices and were looking for exemptions to some taxes to help them. OK, they are a good employer for Baltimore. So, why is it when I go to their store to purchase items for my sons and grandchildren I can not find a single item made in the USA? If profits are so good, and government concessions are so good, why not invest in American-made clothing?"

Why, indeed, Maureen. We understand the reality of globalization and competition, but Under Armour should market some made-in-Baltimore products for the retail crowd. Some of us would buy the products just for that reason, knowing other Marylanders were actually making the stuff.

In fact, Under Armour makes some products for professional and collegiate athletes and teams, on a quick turnaround, at its distribution center in Glen Burnie. It also invested millions in an upgrade to that distribution center a few years ago.

The company, with 2,300 employees in Maryland, has been based here since 1999, and it's staying here and expanding here. Under Armour plans to raise its payroll by at least 500 over the next several years while enlarging its Tide Point campus and working with the city to make all kinds of street improvements. The city will issue $35 million in bonds for infrastructure work around the campus and pay it off over time with Under Armour's property taxes.

The company plans to build an 80,000-square-foot office building and eventually one three times that size.

And, as you say, good for them, and good for us.

Now all U-A needs is a made-in-Baltimore line.

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