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NAACP chastises MLB in letter to Selig

NEW YORK -- The new interim president of the NAACP belittled
baseball's efforts to boost black participation, chastising the
sport in a letter Tuesday to commissioner Bud Selig.

Baseball announced an agreement last month with KPMG in which
the company will give $1 million annually to MLB's Reviving
Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program. Dennis Hayes called it "a
small step."

"I hope that MLB will start listening to current and former
African-American baseball players about their disappointment in the
dwindling number of young blacks who are being coached and trained
to enter the game that they love," Hayes wrote. "They believe,
just like the NAACP believes, that if we don't do something now,
African-American players will become extinct when it comes to Major
League Baseball."

A study by the University of Central Florida's Institute for
Diversity and Ethics in Sports said 8.4 percent of major-league
players last season were black, the lowest level in at least two
decades.

MLB has been working to reverse that trend. In March, St. Louis
and Cleveland played in an exhibition Civil Rights Game organized
by MLB that drew attention to the problem. Part of the proceeds
went to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Hayes wrote that he "watched with amazement at how funding for
baseball programs has found its way to the Dominican Republic,
Puerto Rico and other countries."

Jimmie Lee Solomon, an executive vice president in the
commissioner's office, was surprised by Hayes' letter.

"I wish sometimes we would all get together and do more
constructively, sit down and talk more about what we really want to
achieve and not grandstand," Solomon said.

Hayes took over as president of the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People when Bruce Gordon resigned in March.
In a telephone interview, Hayes wouldn't address Solomon's
contention that he was trying to attract attention rather than try
to find solutions.

"Ours is an open letter to invite Major League Baseball to
allow us to be helpful, if we can," Hayes said in a telephone
interview. "It's our game, too."