NAACP executive director Benjamin Chavis denied Wednesday he had endorsed an NFL expansion franchise for Charlotte, N.C.
But Gov. William Donald Schaefer said the Baltimore-based civil rights organization turned its back on the city, which is also seeking an expansion team."There was an endorsement of Charlotte," Schaefer said."To have Dr. Chavis say there was not an endorsement is not true."
Chavis spoke following a meeting in Baltimore with Mayor Kurt Schmoke, Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-Md., and other national and local NAACP members.
"There was never any intent to ignore Baltimore and the other cities nor to provide any one city with a competitive edge over any other," Chavis said.
Chavis said the NAACP had endorsed only the two "fair share agreements" signed last week with Flagstar Corp. and Richardson Sports/Carolinas Stadium Corp.
Chavis and Jerry Richardson, chairman of Flagstar Corp., signed a sweeping agreement in Baltimore last Thursday regarding the restaurant company's hiring of minorities. The two then flew to Charlotte to sign a similar agreement with Richardson Sports, the group Richardson has set up to win an NFL franchise for Charlotte.
"The national NAACP is going to work hard throughout this state, throughout South Carolina, where we have branches in the United States, to send a clear signal to the NFL that we want the franchise here in Charlotte, we want it under Jerry Richardson," Chavis said at the news conference in Charlotte.
Schaefer and other supporters of a Baltimore franchise criticized those remarks as an apparent endorsement of Charlotte. Schaefer has pointed out the city rescued the nearly bankrupt NAACP in the mid-1980s with a $1.1 million grant, allowing the organization to move out of New York.
"I don't like the way we were treated, not at all," said Schaefer, who was not invited to Wednesday's meeting.
Dr. William Gibson, chairman of the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the agreement with Richardson Sports would not prevent the signing of a similar agreement with any of the three partnerships competing for a team in Baltimore or groups in other cities bidding for an NFL expansion team.
Jacksonville, Fla.; Memphis, Tenn.; and St. Louis are the other cities competing for the two expansion franchise expected to be awarded this fall.
"The NAACP does not favor any one city over others in the United States," Gibson said. "We are committed to supporting those corporations and businesses that are serious about the economic empowerment of African Americans."