Baltimore City Councilman Ryan Dorsey is under fire for saying Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank's development plans amount to "white supremacy." (Baltimore Sun video)
A new Baltimore city councilman is under fire from elected, community and business leaders for suggesting that Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank's development plans amount to "white supremacy."
Ryan Dorsey, elected in November to represent Northeast Baltimore, made disparaging comments about Plank this week in a post on a Facebook page for city voters. Dorsey stood by his comments in an interview Friday, saying Plank's massive development on a South Baltimore peninsula will further segregate the city.
"White supremacy cozying up to white supremacy? Shocker," Dorsey wrote, adding to a thread about Plank advising President Donald J. Trump on job growth.
Plank "is not a local. He is not from Baltimore. He does not live in Baltimore. He is not about Baltimore. He is, himself, an occupying, colonizing, culturally appropriating force," Dorsey wrote.
A chorus of city officials denounced Dorsey's comments.
Mayor Catherine Pugh called the comments "totally unacceptable" and said they do not reflect Plank's character.
"I am shocked," said Pugh, who added that she would mention her disappointment to Dorsey. "I have known Kevin Plank for almost two decades. He is a great Marylander, a great person and someone who is doing everything he can to lift Baltimore.
"Everywhere I go, in every corner of this city and this country, people talk about what Kevin Plank is doing for Baltimore."
City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young said he was "shocked and saddened" by Dorsey's comments and planned to talk to the new councilman to express his dismay.
Plank "has been a great philanthropic contributor to Baltimore for many years. He is a great man. He cares about the city," Young said.
Councilman Eric Costello, whose district includes the Port Covington development, called Dorsey's comments without basis and "highly disrespectful for a public official."
"I am deeply disturbedby what I read," Costello said. "I personally know Kevin and can speak first-hand to his commitment to our city, to the people who live and work here and, most importantly, kids in this city."
Costello said he spoke to Dorsey this week to express his disappointment and try to teach the new councilman about Plank's contributions. He said Dorsey's time would be "better served on constituent services than disparaging other people and their commitment to the city."
Plank offered no comment, but a top official of Plank Industries called Dorsey's comments not only untrue but "unprofessional and unworthy of an elected official, even a very inexperienced one."
"Kevin Plank's commitment to Baltimore is second to none," Tom Geddes, CEO of Plank Industries, said in a statement. "He is proud to grow Under Armour here and to continue his significant personal investments and philanthropic contributions to this great City."
Sagamore is building the $5.5 billion Port Covington project. The development is a waterfront mixed-use community that will include a new headquarters for Under Armour, housing, restaurants, shops and a manufacturing plant. Currently, the site is mostly industrial. It includes The Baltimore Sun's printing plant, property on which The Sun has a long-term lease.
The city agreed last year to float $660 million in bonds to build infrastructure for the Port Covington redevelopment. The plan is for developer to repay bonds through future taxes.
In exchange, Sagamore agreed to a plan designed to bring an estimated $39 million to six South Baltimore neighborhoods over the next 30 years. The money could be spent on a community center, athletic fields, a business incubator, a library and a swimming pool.
The agreement with the neighborhoods is in addition to a $100 million community benefits deal a coalition of faith-based and community groups helped negotiate for the city. It includes money to train workers and provide no-interest loans and other funding for minority- or women-owned startup businesses.
Michael Middleton, chairman of the Cherry Hill Community Coalition, said he was "not familiar with" Dorsey.
"What I do know is that Sagamore has exceeded their commitment in the community benefits agreement for the six South Baltimore communities," he said.
The 35-year-old Dorsey, who is white, is a third-generation businessman who has lived in Northeast Baltimore all his life. He campaigned as a progressive, and routinely wears a black hoodie at City Hall. He said he wore the sweatshirt as he knocked on 10,000 doors during the campaign, and "this is the person that people elected."
His first official act during a meeting of the City Council in December was introducing a resolution condemning Trump's rhetoric as "divisive and scapegoating ... rooted in hate and prejudice."
In an interview, Dorsey said Port Covington would be the "most egregious example" of continued segregation in Baltimore. He contended that Plank's vision is to benefit an "utterly white" population while disregarding the needs of minority communities, he said. He added he did not regret the language he chose to use in his post on the Baltimore City Voters Facebook page, which has more than 5,000 members.
Asked if those concerns rise to the level of accusing Plank of "white supremacy," Dorsey said, "Our population is divided today along racial and economic lines in the same way historical redlining segregated our communities. … This development is about attracting what we know to be a very, very dominantwhite population in a city where black people have historically been disenfranchised.
Dorsey said the plan moved forward over the objections of some who argued that the burden on city services Port Covington would add was not fully addressed. It will result in a further strain on already thin city resources, he said.
Dorsey said he has not heard criticism from the public about his remarks. He noted that some in the Facebook group cheered his comments.
"Every white person has to get educated and get active and put themselves on the line to dismantle structural, institutional racism and dismantle systems of white supremacy," Dorsey said.
David C. Troy, a software developer from Bolton Hill, helped start the Facebook group last year. He said Dorsey's comments "may have taken some aback," but said the city needs more leaders "willing to speak up about their concerns about power."