Maryland NAACP officials are calling on their national leadership to admit a mistake and apologize for endorsing rival Charlotte, N.C.'s, bid for a National Football League franchise.
George N. Buntin Jr., executive director of the NAACP's city branch, said he told a representative of the national civil rights organization yesterday that "local membership is incensed" and that the matter has been "handled poorly."
"I told him nothing short of an out-and-out admittance that they made a mistake and that they owe this city and this state and this chapter an apology will do," Mr. Buntin said.
"Anybody in public life will make mistakes sometimes. That's forgivable," he said. "But the inability to admit a mistake and apologize for it is less forgivable. That's what's causing this snowballing effect."
The Rev. John L. Wright, president of the Maryland conference of NAACP branches, said yesterday he was equally disappointed with the national organization's actions and wants to hear an apology from the NAACP executive director, the Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.
"I'm in concurrence with George," Mr. Wright said. "The executive director doesn't understand the sensitivity of this matter."
The controversy was touched off Thursday when representatives of the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People announced a "fair-share" agreement with Charlotte's prospective NFL team owner, Jerome J. Richardson.
The pact promotes opportunities for blacks within Mr. Richardson's Flagstar Cos. Inc. of Spartanburg, S.C., and promises minority participation in a prospective NFL team's management, stadium construction and as suppliers.
Flagstar owns Denny's restaurant chain, which has been the target of several widely publicized racial discrimination lawsuits.
In a news conference announcing the deal, Dr. Chavis said the NAACP would "help out in any way possible"for Charlotte to get the NFL franchise.
Mr. Buntin said Dr. Chavis then compounded the problem by releasing a five-paragraph statement Saturday that neither apologized to Baltimore nor backed away from the Charlotte endorsement.
"It did more harm than good," he said.
State NAACP leaders initially had encouraged Dr. Chavis to meet with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke this week, but Mr. Buntin said yesterday that such a meeting probably should not take place until the NAACP has a new position to offer.
The NAACP national office was closed yesterday, and a spokesman could not bereached for comment.
Mr. Schmoke also was not available.
A spokeswoman said the mayor is still willing to meet with Dr. Chavis, but expects the NAACP to revise its position on NFL expansion in the next day or two.
Mr. Buntin and other local NAACP organizers place some of the blame for the controversy on the fact that Dr. Chavis is new to his job and hasn't been able to assess the reaction in Baltimore. Dr. Chavis was appointed to the post in April and is a native of North Carolina.
"They [the NAACP's national office] fumbled the ball on this one by not touching base with us," said Rodney Orange, president of the city NAACP branch.