- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 18, 2001

State officials told the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs on Friday that it had overstepped its authority by threatening to boycott a Germantown youth baseball league that had teams with such names as "Braves" and "Indians."
The rebuke of the Indian advocacy agency, which came in the form of a statement released by the Department of Housing and Community Development, was the first official indication that Gov. Parris N. Glendening had had enough of the Indian group's pressure tactics.
The Democratic governor has refused to answer questions himself about the Indian commission's 11-day-old boycott of the baseball teams' sponsors. But sources said the administration was behind Friday's action.
Richard Regan, the commission member who led the boycott effort, said the administration's action undermines the commission, which was created by the Maryland General Assembly in 1974 to advance Indian issues in state government and promote Indian culture.
"I feel like the legs have been cut out from under us," he said. "I'm sure they are going to look at what the governor is saying today and conclude they don't need to do anything."
In Friday's statement the housing department, which oversees the nine-member commission, commended the Indian advocacy agency for raising "a very important issue of great concern to many people."
But the statement made it clear that, as The Washington Times first reported Thursday, state officials had concluded that the Indian commission had overstepped its authority.
"The commission's role is strictly defined in statutory language as only an advisory and recommendation-making body has no authority to impose or enforce an economic boycott," the statement said.
"The commission may only make recommendations and the State and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development have clearly rejected this specific recommendation. The State and DHCD do not, and will not, support or endorse any boycott," the statement continued.
That statement is a turnaround from comments made earlier by department spokesman Ed McDonough, who told The Times that the "commission was within their rights to call for that boycott the governor and the department cannot support it."
The Times reported this week that the administration had concluded that the commission, whose members are appointed by the governor, had no authority to pass resolutions or initiate a boycott.
The nine-member commission, which has an annual budget of $50,000, adopted a resolution 5-0 on Aug. 6 to boycott the league's sponsors. Two seats on the commission were vacant, and two members were absent.
Members of the commission are volunteers but are reimbursed for expenses; five must be of Indian descent.
Mr. Regan, a Montgomery County resident and Lumbee Cheraw Indian, predicted that the lack of clear support from Mr. Glendening will hurt the commission's efforts to pressure about 30 public schools in the state to drop their Indian mascot names, which the group considers racist and insensitive.
Mr. Regan said the group turned to a boycott to press the issue and raise public awareness after earlier conversations with the baseball league's sponsors yielded few results.
He said he was surprised to see the Department of Housing and Community Development change its position because the department's legal counsel, Philip J. Deters, was present on Aug. 6 when the commission voted for the boycott.
Mr. Deters, according to Mr. Regan, never told commission members that they couldn't pass resolutions or call for a boycott.
"We pass resolutions all the time; we've passed four or five since January," Mr. Regan said.
The Giant grocery store chain is one of the team sponsors targeted by the boycott.
Company Vice President Barry Scher said Giant stores have seen "no effect at all" from the boycott effort.
Mr. Scher said he sent the Little League a letter urging the organization to meet with state officials and seek an amicable solution.
"We would hope that sponsors of programs that benefit young people wouldn't be penalized," Mr. Scher said.
Mr. Regan who told representatives of the youth league that he wanted a written promise that the Indian mascot names would be dropped permanently said he plans to continue pressing the issue.
Before the Glendening administration became involved, Germantown Little League officials had moved to appease the Indian commission, temporarily suspending the names "Braves" and "Indians" for seven teams in five divisions. Officials said the organizations' 3,000 members would consider abandoning the names permanently, but Mr Regan said the commission would not call off the boycott until the names were banned permanently.
Germantown Little League President Troy Barker said Mr. Regan approached county officials and league sponsors before bringing his objections to the league.
Mike Morris, vice president of the league, said parents and coaches in Germantown felt that the Indian commission had unfairly targeted their teams.
"We felt the tactics were totally wrong, to get headlines," he said. "I think they got more publicity than they thought they were going to get and of a different kind."
Glendening spokesman Mike Morrill said earlier this week that the governor's office considered a boycott of Little League teams inappropriate, especially when the teams had expressed a willingness to discuss the issue.
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.


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