- The Washington Times - Friday, August 17, 2001

Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening today is expected to pull the plug on a boycott of Little League sponsors organized by the state's Indian advocacy agency.
Mike Morrill, communications director for the Democratic governor, yesterday declined to specify what Mr. Glendening will do to countermand the Commission on Indian Affairs, which he appointed.
The Washington Times first reported yesterday that Maryland officials told the Indian commission it had no statutory authority to impose the boycott over the use of the names "Indians" and "Braves" by teams in a Montgomery County youth baseball league.
Troy Barker, president of the 72-team Germantown Athletic Club, yesterday said Mr. Glendening and state officials need to act to set the record straight.
"They have publicly called for a boycott and letters have been sent to our sponsors," Mr. Barker said of the Indian commission. "I would hope that if this is true — that the commission exceeded its authority — [Maryland officials] would contact the sponsors and tell them there is no boycott."
League officials have said they 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.
If the Glendening administration follows its recent pattern in responding to the issue, that job would fall to the state Department of Housing and Community Development, which oversees the Indian commission and was assigned to explain its recent actions.
Mr. Barker had appealed in recent days for Mr. Glendening to step into the dispute and rein in his commission.
But Mr. Glendening so far has chosen not to directly comment on the issue. He could tap his secretary of community development, Raymond A. Skinner, to spread the word that the commission overreached.
Commission member Richard Regan, a Montgomery County resident and Lumbee Cheraw Indian, yesterday said he is "puzzled" that state officials concluded the commission exceeded its authority Aug. 6 in adopting a resolution to impose the boycott.
"It's almost like the coach of the team disavowed his players," Mr. Regan said, referring to Mr. Glendening. "I'm very disappointed."
"Maybe it's time for a mass resignation" from the commission, Mr. Regan added, because the panel has been "held back from doing its job."
The Indian commission was created by the Maryland General Assembly in 1974 to advance Indian issues in the state government and promote Indian culture.
Mr. Glendening, who appointed Mr. Regan and the other six current commission members, had been slow to react to the budding controversy over its actions. Adding to the political missteps was the fact that key officials were not aware of exactly what the little-known commission had done.
On Wednesday, Mr. Morrill told The Times "it is not appropriate to boycott Little League teams, especially after they express a willingness to discuss the issue."
The commissioners are free to act as private citizens to organize a boycott of the league's 64 sponsors, but not as a state agency, said a source familiar with deliberations within the community development agency, which is responsible for the Indian commission and its $50,000 budget.
It was a clarification from the state's insistence for five days that the commission was "within its rights" to call for the boycott, although the department and governor did not back the action.
Mr. Regan yesterday said legal counsel from the Maryland Attorney General's Office was present Aug. 6, when the commission adopted a resolution calling for the boycott on a 5-0 vote.
The counsel advised the Indian commission to "soften the language," Mr. Regan said, but did not object to the legality of the boycott.
Officials since have concluded the panel lacks legal authority to adopt resolutions, only to make recommendations to the community development department, the government source familiar with the issue said yesterday.
Another member of the commission from Montgomery County, Julia Pierce, expressed surprise at that conclusion.
"I do think we have the authority to pass resolutions — and we do so pretty regularly," Miss Pierce said yesterday.
Miss Pierce said no state official had contacted her to say the commission had exceeded its authority.
Deputy counsel Philip J. Deters, the representative of the Attorney General's Office present for the vote on the boycott resolution, did not return a call for comment yesterday.
Miss Pierce, a Lumbee Indian and lawyer for the U.S. Indian Health Service, also dismissed the notion that Mr. Regan had made the boycott a one-man crusade. "My opinion pretty much mirrors Mr. Regan's," she said. "I agree with him 100 percent."
Miss Pierce defended the commission's efforts to strip sports teams of names it considers offensive to American Indians — among them "Indians," "Braves," "Chiefs" and "Warriors" — saying the effort is "bringing to the forefront that Maryland Indians are actual people, not these stereotypical figures living in a prior century."
"I don't feel the need to resign over the issue," she added. "I think it's a very important issue, one that's necessary to support."
Commission member Amos Goodfox, a Montgomery County resident of Osage-Pawnee descent, declined to comment.
The Times could not reach any other members of the commission. The panel's administrator, Dixie Henry, did not return two phone messages yesterday.
Mr. Barker has criticized Mr. Regan and the commission for implying the volunteers of the youth league discriminated against American Indians by using the names.
Sponsors have told league officials they would abide by the league's final decision on use of Indian-inspired names. And at a coaches' meeting Wednesday night, Mr. Barker said, the subject of the boycott never came up.
"No one said a word," he said. "Our people know what we're about."
"I have some regrets," Mr. Regan said yesterday. "The regret is that they're trying to destroy the message bearer and the message is being muddled."


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