Making good on a promise to increase their marketing to African-American fans and their spending with minority-owned businesses, the Orioles yesterday released a "midseason report" that shows they significantly have stepped up those efforts.
The report shows the team is spending about 33 percent of its advertising budget with media outlets whose audience is mainly African-American. The team has about $100,000 on deposit at Harbor Bank, a minority-owned bank. And its stationery, including envelopes and letterhead, is printed by a local firm with African-American owners.
Those steps, and others undertaken by the Orioles, were praised by the African-American Task Force on Professional Sports in Maryland, a group that has been negotiating with team officials for more than a year.
"When you look at this document, it's clearly unparalleled for a professional sports team," said Del. Howard P. "Pete" Rawlings, D-Baltimore, chairman of the task force. "No other team is doing as much. We think this serves as a national model."
But Rawlings added that the Orioles' performance wasn't perfect, citing as disappointments the Orioles' refusal to set specific goals for hiring more minority workers and buying more from minority firms.
"We weren't able to negotiate those goals and timetables. Butwe've been assured by the Orioles that when we meet again soon, we'll be able to determine progress," Rawlings said.
The release of the report came several hours before the Rev. Jesse Jackson appeared at a news conference in Baltimore to lay out plans for his scheduled picket of Tuesday's All-Star Game at Camden Yards.
Jackson said he plans to picket the ballpark from 5 p.m until 8 p.m., about a half-hour before the scheduled start of the game. He led a similar protest at the stadium on Opening Day, opposing what he says is baseball's exclusion of minorities from top front-office positions.
Speaking at the office of U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-Md., who also opposed the owners' hiring practices, Jackson said the picket was directed at Major League Baseball, not the Orioles.
"This picket is not intended to, nor should it, embarrass the city of Baltimore, its mayor or the Baltimore Orioles organization. It should embarrass Major League Baseball," said Jackson, president of the National Rainbow Coalition.
Yesterday, Jackson leveled an additional charge, saying baseball officials had obstructed negotiations between the Orioles and the local task force by discouraging the Orioles from agreeing to any specific affirmative-action goals.
Rawlings confirmed that Orioles officials "at the highest levels" told him that the team had been told not to agree to the specific goals favored by the task force and Jackson. Rawlings praised Orioles officials for continuing talks with the task force members when, he said, Major League Baseball discouraged them.
"The Orioles resisted the national office's call not to negotiate with us, which we felt was highly inappropriate on their part," Rawlings said.
Orioles president Larry Lucchino declined to discuss talks with Major League Baseball, but said: "I don't think baseball has done anything wrong whatsoever. We are part of baseball, and baseball has made a strong commitment to minority initiatives."
Last March, Major League Baseball unveiled a program of "minority initiatives" in areas such as hiring and contracting with outside businesses. The program is a continuation of such efforts by baseball.
Since 1987, the percentage of front-office workers who are minorities has risen from 2 percent to 17 percent, Major League Baseball says. But the program does not include affirmative-action goals, which has rankled Jackson and some other African-American leaders.