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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Unsportsmanlike conduct: NFL, city

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leaders disrespect of Indy’s Blacks


Of the last four Super Bowl winning cities, Indianapolis has the largest Black population. Yet, last week’s NFL Kickoff events in a 27 percent Black city, wrote off our African-American community; spending nothing with our businesses, ignoring most Black youth, refusing to invite our community to volunteer or participate in the festivities.

In pursuit of hosting a Super Bowl, Indianapolis’ political and civic leadership sold our African-American community down the river by allowing the National Football League to set up shop in our city’s public square (Monument Circle) and going all out to exclude our people.

The result of NFL arrogance and civic timidity was the most lily-white attended major Indianapolis event in decades. A greater percentage of Blacks attend the State Fair, Indy Jazz Fest and even Penrod than the NFL’s sanitized, whitenized kickoff.

The issue isn’t just that no Black entertainers were selected or allowed to perform at that free Circle concert. The insults and slights are numerous.

The NFL’s apologists at Indy’s civic organizations repeatedly told me that Blacks were welcomed to the Circle concert. Then why did the NFL and its sponsors flatly refuse to advertise the NFL Kickoff concert and other activities with Indy’s Black-oriented and/or Black-owned media? Of the tens of thousands spent on advertising, Black media got not a penny.

The NFL and local apologists said Blacks were encouraged to be part of the 400 some volunteers who were part of the pre-game extravaganza before the Colts-Saints game in the RCA Dome. However, the NFL and the extravaganza’s producers also refused to publicize volunteer opportunities to the Black community, through its media. No press releases sent. No interviews arranged.

The result? A lily-white group of volunteer extras. One of the few Black volunteers, LeDean Smith, said in an e-mail, “There were about 400 that volunteered. I tried to count the number of Blacks and could see no more than 20, 25 if that many.”

Five percent Black diversity doesn’t reflect Indianapolis’ 27 percent Black population. Blame again NFL arrogance and disdain of local civic leadership.

An even bigger sin was the NFL’s refusal to utilize ANY Black-owned businesses. The NFL and their sponsors spent hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions. Again, not a dime to Black-owned businesses!

I confronted the NFL about their racism at a tense press conference last Wednesday. The NFL hoped for a feel good session. Instead they heard our community’s hurt and anger through me.

City and civic officials, not to mention local media, freaked out when I confronted the NFL on their disrespect of our Black community. Channels 8 and 13 abruptly cut away from their live press conference coverage when I asked my question, though Channel 6 aired it live. In subsequent coverage, the TV stations avoided the issue like the plague as did the Indianapolis Star.

After recounting how our community was insulted and ignored, I asked if the NFL would implement the same minority participation program for future NFL Kickoffs that they utilize for Super Bowls.

The NFL’s unctuous, condescending spokesman Brian McCarthy skirted the question, instead bragging about the league working with area youth during the week.

Just one problem. Very few area schools chose to participate in the NFL’s youth activities because schools don’t like to have kids out in the days before the ISTEP tests. Pliant local officials wouldn’t convince the NFL to change their youth schedule to late afternoons or the weekend before, which would’ve made it accessible to more youth.

As a result, most Black kids couldn’t participate. Just five of IPS’ 10 middle schools participated, as did one township and one charter school. The majority of schools where Black kids attend didn’t participate.

As I continued to press the recalcitrant McCarthy to promise that no future Black community would be maltreated like ours was, McCarthy brusquely cut me off, like a pesky bug that dared intrude on the NFL’s cloistered sanctity.

That’s when Keyshia Cole butted in. A 26-year-old hip-hop singer with a couple of hit records and pretensions as a diva, Cole was picked by the NFL to sing the National Anthem after Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson backed out. Of thousands of African-American entertainers, the only one available was Keyshia Cole?

So when I spoke truth to the NFL and their local sycophants, Keyshia Cole decided to play a “yes massah” role, thinking I was threatening her big break on NBC.

“Do you not see me on the panel,” Cole said contemptuously, “For these people to have me here is an amazing opportunity for me. I’m from Oakland, Calif., and I never thought I’d get an opportunity like this.”

Cole’s putdown garnered applause from the NFL staffers, hangers on and toadies at the press conference, including officials of Indianapolis Downtown, Indiana Sports Corp. and the Indiana Convention and Visitors Association. But her remarks earned condemnation from many, many Blacks. Because while a youth group from Fort Wayne sang with Cole, no Blacks from Indianapolis got the opportunity this “Oakland” girl got.

What Cole didn’t realize was that of the hundreds of posters and billboards around town promoting NFL Kickoff none contained her name or picture. A front page Indianapolis Star photo of the Kickoff’s stars pointedly excluded Cole.

In fact many in our community didn’t even know she was involved until they saw her singing at the game.

Worse, for her, the NFL publicity machine wouldn’t let Keyshia Cole talk to her own people. Even banning her from interviews with the city’s top rated station for young adults, WHHH-FM (96.3) which plays her music.

What’s disappointing is that Mayor Bart Peterson and his minions, and the top leadership of the Indiana Sports Corp. (who had staffers helping the NFL), Indianapolis Downtown and the Indiana Convention and Visitors Association helped facilitate this rank disrespect.

Oh, they say they had nothing to do with this slight to our community. But I’m not buying it. They could have prevented it, except their desire to host a Super Bowl allowed our Black community to get run over.

There’s a passage of Scripture that comes to mind in the midst of this mess. Mark 8:36, where Jesus says “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

Our African-American community rephrases Jesus’ teaching asking Mayor Peterson, IDI, Sports Corp. and ICVA, “What shall it profit Indianapolis if it hosts a Super Bowl, but loses their own soul?”

This disgrace must never happen again!

See ‘ya next week.

Amos Brown’s opinions are not necessarily those of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper. You can contact him at (317) 221-0915 or e-mail him at ACBROWN@AOL.COM.

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