The two cities are considered front-running competitors for an NFL franchise, but Charlotte's effort has been rocked by accusations of racism lodged against a company operated by the proposed team owner, Jerry Richardson.
Yesterday, however, officials of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People announced they had reached a "fair-share agreement" with Richardson's NFL group and Flagstar Corp., the company he heads. Flagstar operates several restaurant chains, including Denny's, which has been the subject of lawsuits and Justice Department action alleging discrimination.
The fair-share agreement -- the first such national accord in sports -- calls for minority participation in the proposed North Carolina team's management, suppliers and stadium construction.
The Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., NAACP executive director and a North Carolina native, told reporters in Charlotte: "Yes, we will do what we can and help out in any way possible for the Carolinas to get a franchise.
"The national NAACP is going to work hard throughout this state, throughout South Carolina, where we have branches in the U.S., to send a clear signal to the NFL that we want a franchise here in Charlotte, and we want it under Jerry Richardson," he said.
A spokeswoman for Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who spent much of yesterday calming racial tensions on the Eastern Shore, expressed disappointment with the endorsement.
"The NAACP is a national organization, but it does have its headquarters here, and we would hope that it would work with Baltimore and Maryland to get an NFL franchise. If Baltimore gets an NFL team, there would be economic benefits for everyone," said Page W. Boinest, the governor's press secretary.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, in a statement issued through a spokesman, said: "I was surprised to learn that the NAACP was taking a position on the NFL expansion. I will contact Dr. Chavis, because I am sure they will want to support the application of the city in which their national headquarters is located."
City Council President Mary Pat Clarke said: "I think Baltimore can beat Charlotte's fair share any day in terms of an equal-opportunity NFL team. We certainly deserve the chance to negotiate with our local NAACP."
Herbert J. Belgrad, coordinator of Baltimore's efforts to attract a new NFL franchise since 1986, declined to comment on the NAACP endorsement.
Mark L. Wasserman, Maryland's economic development secretary, said, "It seems to me we're best advised to stay focused on Baltimore, fashion our own strategy, make sure that we are as inclusive as possible, and not worry about what others are doing."
Dr. Chavis said no other prospective team owners have approached the NAACP, the nation's oldest civil rights organization, which has been based in Baltimore since 1986.
In addition to Baltimore and Charlotte, St. Louis, Memphis, Tenn., and Jacksonville, Fla., also are competing for one of the two new teams the league plans to add this fall.
Support not unanimous
Despite the NAACP support for a Charlotte franchise, another prominent civil rights leader, the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, still opposes the Carolina team.
Mr. Jackson's Rainbow Commission for Fairness in Athletics supports fair-share agreements, but continues to work against Mr. Richardson's winning a franchise while it believes discrimination still exists at his restaurants, said commission director Frank Watkins.
"If the owners can't properly manage what businesses they have in operation without discrimination, they should not be given an NFL franchise. If they settle the lawsuits and put in place a program that will ensure a policy of non-discrimination in the present and future, we would not oppose their owning the team," Mr. Watkins said.
"The people of Charlotte deserve a team. Companies that discriminate do not deserve to own a team," he said.
Mr. Jackson picketed the Orioles opener at Camden Yards, protesting the lack of minorities in executive positions in baseball, and also led a protest at the Annapolis Denny's, where six black Secret Service officers have alleged that they were refused service.
Dr. Chavis and Mr. Jackson were rivals this spring for the job of NAACP executive director, and they often have seemed to be working at cross-purposes since then.
Kelly M. Alexander Jr., president of the North Carolina NAACP, defended the group's support for the Charlotte bid.
Mr. Alexander said the agreement with Richardson Sports, which he helped negotiate, would bring African-Americans an estimated $26 million in its first year alone, were Charlotte to get a team.
The Charlotte group deserves special consideration from the NFL because "this is the only group vying for a franchise that has signed an agreement of this nature," he said.
'The first step'
Mr. Alexander added that the NAACP wanted to support the group that "took the first step in developing more equity and opportunity in professional sports.
"These are serious departures from the way business has been conducted in the past, and I think they are worthy of recognition," he said, referring to the Flagstar and Richardson Sports agreements.
Asked if Baltimore ownership groups should negotiate with the NAACP, Mr. Alexander said: "We would welcome negotiating a fair-share agreement with anybody who has an interest in equity. This first agreement does deserve some special recognition.
"Baltimore is a great American city, and after Charlotte gets a franchise, I hope Baltimore gets one, too," he said.
Mr. Richardson, a Baltimore Colts player in 1959-1960, said at a Baltimore news conference yesterday that the fair-share agreements "will be something I'm sure the NFL will consider and the owners will consider. The question is, is Jerry Richardson the kind of person that people in the NFL would want to be associated with?"
The NAACP agreement with Richardson Sports establishes a "moral commitment" for expanding black and other minority participation in the team. Specifically, it calls for at least 15 percent of the team managers to be black, 10 percent of its stadium construction workers to be racial minorities and 10 percent of its suppliers to be black-owned.
The Richardson group also will try to add a black investor, something it has attempted unsuccessfully for months. Prospective ownership groups in St. Louis, Baltimore and Memphis have black investors.
An NFL spokesman, Greg Aiello, declined to comment on the endorsement of Charlotte. However, he said the league is satisfied with Mr. Richardson's handling of the Denny's accusations.
'Whatever is necessary'
"This issue for us is the Richardsons and how have they responded to the situation, and they have responded quickly and responsibly. At this stage, we don't see the situation having a negative impact on their expansion application," Mr. Aiello said.
Neither of the two ownership groups seeking to own a Baltimore franchise has discussed a fair-share agreement, but they say they will if necessary.
Joel Glazer, son of Florida businessman and prospective team owner Malcolm Glazer, said they would do "whatever is necessary to help the cause."
Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, head of the other investment group, said he had not heard about Richardson's agreement, but "I would be interested." He noted that his group has a black investor -- former Colt Joe Washington.
"I think the owners are going to make their decision based on what puts the most money into their pockets," Mr. Weinglass said.