24 May 2000 Orioles Baseball Team Warned Not to Discriminate
African-American Network Asks Owner Angelos to Consider Afro-Cubans
Recent statements by officials of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team in which they orginially said – but later retracted – that they would not sign Cuban defectors to play for the team concerns members of the African-American leadership network Project 21. Project 21 members cite the discriminatory nature of Angelos’s initial actions, and the particularly strong effects it would have on Afro-Cubans in Major League Baseball.
Orioles Vice President Syd Thrift told The Washington Times last week that the team would not sign Cuban defectors. The team did pass on meeting with available Cuban players. Thrift now calls his statement a "concept" rather than a policy and that the team would consider signing Cuban players. Angelos said he "would not solicit or encourage anyone to defect – rather we would discourage that."
"I call upon Mr. Angelos to make it clear that he is not pursuing racist employment practices," said Project 21 member Kevin Martin, a native of the Baltimore-Washington area. "Those Cubans who chose to defect did so at great risk to themselves and those they left behind in Cuba. Should they be banned because of their heritage, it erects yet another roadblock to their progress. In Cuba, blacks have little to no voice in the government and must turn to sports as a means of getting ahead. Afro-Cubans who have risked their lives to be here deserve the equal opportunity to play on Mr. Angelos’s or anyone else’s team."
According to labor law experts, should Angelos intentionally not hire Cubans to play for the Orioles, it would be a violation of at least two laws. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination in hiring on the basis of national origin. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 similarly bars employment discrimination against resident aliens on the basis of nationality and citizenship. Former Justice Department official Roger Clegg told The Washington Times that the signing of other Caribbean players, which the Orioles have done, while snubbing their Cuban counterparts could itself be considered a violation of the law.
So far, the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has been silent on Angelos’s actions. In 1999, however, the NAACP called for a boycott of the businesses of Detroit Tigers baseball team owner Mike Illitch because the group did not believe Illitch made enough of an effort to interview black candidates for an opening for team manager.
In 1999, Angelos received a special wavier from the Clinton Administration to take the Orioles to Cuba for a game against Cuba’s national team, and hosted the Cuban team for a game in Baltimore, Maryland as part of the Clinton Administration’s attempts to normalize relations with the communist dictatorship of Fidel Castro. Angelos is a major donor to the Democratic National Committee and Democratic candidates.
Project 21 has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x106 or John Carlisle at (202) 507-6398 or Project [email protected], or visit Project 21’s website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.