- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Eric H. Holder Jr., Calvin Hill, Charles Mann and Art Monk

After decades of attempts, the long overdue return of MajorLeague Baseball to our nation’s capital is finally complete. Now, the task at hand is working together to ensure the owners of the Washington Nationals have the experience, talent and diversity to make baseball a success for all Washington residents now and into the future.

As locally based investors in the Smulyan Group, we are repeatedly baffled and amazed at the description of the Lerner, Malek and Smulyan groups as two “local” groups and the “Smulyan” group. We are, without question and by any standard, a most local group. Furthermore, we are the only group that made a serious commitment to diversity.

Not just on paper but in practice, this group has more African American equity investment than any other team in Major League Baseball — as well as the commitment for a seat at the table in helping to run the organization.

We, more than any other potential ownership group, understand that a baseball team’s owners as well as its players should reflect the great diversity of our nation and the communities which it serves.

As D.C. Council member Kwame Brown recently stated “Smulyan’s group has led the way in the conversation about local minority ownership with the 40 percent minority ownership they have at the table.”

There are more than a dozen of us. We have deep roots in this town. Many were born here. We work here. We own businesses here. We have held public office here, and we have given of our time to make the city better, safer and healthier. We work within the system of government and we partner with our elected officials to do things government cannot. We have created charitable foundations to give back to the communities here in many ways, especially where the needs are greatest.

We have raised our families here, and some of us are fifth-generation Washingtonians. We are involved with the baseball bid because we realize what it can mean to our city as a whole, because it can be a good and profitable business, but most of all because baseball can be the rallying force a whole city can get behind to accomplish good and to have fun in the process.

We have a vision for what baseball can mean for our town, its youth, its neighborhoods in need of a boost, families in need of employment opportunities or just good old-fashioned affordable entertainment on a summer night. We signed on with Jeff Smulyan because that is his vision for baseball in Washington, too. Fortunately, he has the experience to bring it all together in one package.

It is uncommon if not unprecedented to have such a large number of individual African American investors in a major sports franchise, and to have such a significant amount of minority equity investment in a team. Again, we were not just about signing on to a baseball bid to be owners. We share a vision and a set of beliefs about how we could “play the game,” write the rules, and win the old-fashioned way, on our collective merits.

Our record of commitment to providing funding for the promotion of youth sports, youth education and other local philanthropic causes is unparalleled. We have raised and personally given tens of millions for underserved kids in our region and invested that money directly in their education.

We are not worried about this group being “local” and attuned to the needs and issues of the District. We get it. We live here.

Baseball can be many things — great entertainment, an economic booster for the region, an employer, a contributor to the community — but first and foremost, it is a business. It’s important to frame the discussions not by where we are from, but more importantly where we are going.

After all these years, Washington is the Nationals’ home. We, Washingtonians, will make the Washington Nationals the best team in Major League Baseball. The nation’s capital deserves no less.

Eric H. Holder Jr. is a partner at Covington and Burling and a former deputy attorney general. Calvin Hill had a 14-year NFL career, and was part of agroup organized to bring baseball back to Washington. Charles Mann, a former Redskin and Hall of Fame nominee, is co-founder of the Good Samaritan Foundation. Art Monk is a Redskins legend and co-founder of the Good Samaritan Foundation.

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