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Opinion: Open Letter to the “Tournament of Racism”

Published on Wednesday, December 31, 2014 | 12:35 pm
 

The Pasadena Community Coalition’s letter to the Executive Board of the Tournament of Roses, received in their offices on November 24, 2014, requesting that they address the lack of hiring of any African-American males on their staff has yet to be formally acknowledged or responded to by the Board. Copies of the letter were sent to the American Honda Co., ESPN, the NCAA, the Pac 12, and the Big 10, but these other groups also have not replied to us about the concerns listed in our correspondence.

Three years ago, the lack of African-American males on the staff of the Tournament of Roses, better known as the “Tournament of Racism,” and the traditional non-hiring of them, was brought to the attention of the organization through a meeting arranged by Joe Brown of the NAACP. Attending that discussion were leading members of the Tournament, including former President Sally Bixby, and Tournament members Gerald Freeny and Otis Triplett, and Executive Director Bill Flynn. The Tournament promised to address this issue head on, yet here we are at the end of 2014 and they have not only reneged on their promise but have also refused to even respond to recent questions about the situation. For the Tournament of Roses to not honor its commitment going back 3 years is truly unacceptable and a sign of egregious indifference.

Moreover, this same issue of the “Tournament of Racism” was raised over 20 years ago, presented to the organization’s executive director at the time, Jack French. He stated that African-Americans were not qualified to be on the Executive Committee. This provoked an outcry not only in Pasadena, but nationally and beyond, to the point that Nelson Mandela, Coretta Scott King and Jesse Jackson vowed to hold a counter-parade to the Rose Parade. At that moment, the Tournament of Roses recognized their Executive Committee should be more diverse, and eventually moved to have women, Asians and Latinos on the Committee.

In a recent article in one of the local Pasadena newspapers mentioning this ongoing issue, and according to the query of the reporter, the response of the Tournament of Roses to its lack of, in particular, African-American male employees will be directed to Martin A. Gordon of the Pasadena Community Coalition. But more than 30 days have passed and the silence of the Tournament continues and is deafening. Ignoring this issue is hardly a credible response!

We describe the current outcome in that way – and with great emphasis – because over 70 percent of the players of football teams under the auspices of the NCAA are African-American males. Furthermore the economic benefit they bring, which involves hundreds of millions of dollars to each college campus and sports program, including that of the Pac 12 (UCLA and USC), and the Big 10, is tremendous. How can the Tournament of Roses, which also receives great value from these teams and their players, not be greatly concerned about the lack of any African American male on their staff? After all, so much of the worth and fame of the Tournament of Roses’ annual parade is dependent on the Rose Bowl game, which much of the public immediately identifies with the parade, and which, in turn, involves men of African descent.

It’s long overdue that the “Tournament of Racism” and their “inspiring story” should be one about the Executive Committee announcing that Executive Director Bill Flynn is resigning from the Tournament for his lack of leadership and promotion of diversity. That way the “Tournament of Racism” can again be the Tournament of Roses.

Martin A. Gordon, Chair Pasadena Community Coalition

 

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