- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 15, 2001

The head of a Little League group in Montgomery County, Md., yesterday said he will appeal to the governor and county officials to defend his baseball teams from a boycott organized by the state's Indian advocacy agency.
Troy Barker, president of the Germantown Athletic Club, also said the Commission on Indian Affairs owes his nonprofit group of volunteers an apology for implying they discriminate against American Indians because seven of their teams were named "Indians" or "Braves."
"Please, we're just running a youth baseball league," Mr. Barker said yesterday. "Stop with the attacks."
Mr. Barker said Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who so far has declined to comment on the boycott campaign by his Indian commission, should have spoken up to defend the youth baseball program and its 72 teams.
"I would think he would be appalled that this guy he's appointed is turning around and going after youth leagues," Mr. Barker said.
Mr. Barker singled out commission member Richard Regan, a Montgomery County resident and Lumbee Cheraw Indian who organized the boycott of sponsors to pressure the league into dropping team names that the commission considers offensive to American Indians.
The Washington Times first reported Saturday that the Germantown Athletic Club will suspend use of the names "Braves" and "Indians" this fall for seven teams in five divisions while its 3,000 members consider whether to abandon the names permanently.
Mr. Regan said the boycott would be lifted only if the commissioners "see in writing" that the teams plan to permanently change the names.
"I can tell you right now, even if our members decide not to use the names, we won't put that in writing," Mr. Barker said yesterday. "If we choose not to use them, it's not going to be based on any resolution they draw up or anything they do."
Mr. Barker said league officials are drafting a statement to Mr. Glendening, the Montgomery County Council and other government officials, as well as the league's 64 business sponsors, to explain the league's side of the dispute.
"I don't know if the governor could undo what the commission is doing," said Ed McDonough, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.
Mr. Glendening's press secretary has declined to characterize the Democratic governor's opinion of the Indian commission's tactics and referred all questions to the community development department. The agency oversees the nine-member Indian commission, which is appointed by Mr. Glendening.
Mr. Regan has said the Little League's tentative decision to drop the names "Braves" and "Indians" did not meet criteria established to lift the boycott in a resolution adopted unanimously by five commissioners Aug. 6. Two commissioners were absent.
The resolution "urges the Germantown Athletic Club to eliminate the use of American Indian descriptions of their baseball teams, and requests the general public boycott the corporate sponsors of the Germantown Athletic Club until such time as they eliminate their American Indian mascot names."
The commission's statutory authority to impose the boycott stems from Maryland code, which allows members to "initiate, direct, and coordinate projects which further the understanding of Indian history and culture."
In June, Mr. Regan unsuccessfully argued that the league's use of the "Braves" and "Indians" names violates anti-discrimination policies in an appearance before the county's Interagency Coordinating Board for Community Use of Public Facilities. League teams practice and play games on public school ballfields.
David Weaver, spokesman for County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, said Mr. Duncan would not take sides in the dispute.
"This is an issue between the Commission on Indian Affairs and the sports league in Germantown," Mr. Weaver said. "I'm not aware that anybody from the Germantown business community has been adversely affected by this boycott. We respect the right of everyone to have a healthy debate on this issue."
Two other commissioners, Amos Goodfox and Julia Pierce, are also from Montgomery County. Ms. Pierce said she was absent when the resolution was adopted but "probably" would have voted for it.
Maryland's 15,423 American Indians make up 0.3 percent of the state's population, according to 2000 statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. No federally recognized tribes reside in the state.
The commission has argued for eliminating Indian-inspired nicknames for school sports teams across Maryland, identifying 27 schools in 13 counties that use names such as "Indians," "Braves," "Chiefs" and "Warriors." One target is Poolesville High School, which voted 493-321 in May to retain the nickname "Indians." The Montgomery County Board of Education will re-examine the policy of allowing Indian nicknames at its Aug. 28 meeting.
Critics of such campaigns to rename amateur and pro teams, whether Germantown's Braves or the Washington Redskins, say bigoted attitudes, not the names, are offensive and must be changed. Nicknames like "Braves" honor Indians, they say.
Mr. Barker said team names in his league are chosen by coaches, who submit a list of three possible selections. League officials assign the names, giving returning coaches preference. He said his league is sensitive to Mr. Regan's concerns but is upset with the commissioner's tactics, which he said are designed to get headlines.
"We're green when it comes to that stuff," Mr. Barker said. "That's not our forte. Our forte is running a baseball league for the youth of Germantown. No one on our board has any political aspirations."

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