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Black business owners upset over boycott talk

A call by the local NAACP to boycott the CIAA basketball tournament and other large sporting events is not sitting well with some black businesspeople in Charlotte who say it would hurt black businesses.

During an executive board meeting Tuesday of the Charlotte chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Kojo Nantambu, president of the chapter, announced plans to start a petition to keep the CIAA, NCAA and PGA from coming to Charlotte. His call for a boycott came after Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools scheduled a snow makeup day on Martin Luther King Jr. Day after winter weather shut down schools this month.

“I understand their (NAACP’s) frustration and their feelings concerning the MLK holiday, but events like the CIAA are huge economically for the city of Charlotte,” said Leon Cox, who is black and the general manager at Marriot Executive Park. “A lot of African-American people work at events like the CIAA. And I know that those kinds of events help my African-American employees make a living. Those events are hard to come by, and to take them away would negatively impact a lot of people.”

Cox, a board member of the Greater Charlotte Hospitality and Tourism Alliance and the Charlotte Area Hotels Association, said he’s never encountered racism since moving to Charlotte in 2008. On the contrary, he said he’s found the city welcoming. He also points to Charlotte’s black political leaders, such as Mayor Anthony Foxx and Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon, as proof that the city embraces minorities.

Foxx, in a statement released Thursday, said he disagrees with any effort to boycott Charlotte. Foxx also said that Charlotte is not a racist community, but he said it was regrettable that MLK Day was used as a snow makeup day.

“At the same time, given the challenges so many of our young people face, I could not agree that students should not attend classes,” Foxx said.

Foxx also said calling Charlotte racist is unproductive and damaging.

Philip Cunningham, who is black and the general manager at Great Wolf Lodge in Concord, also thinks the NAACP’s petition for a boycott is a bad idea.

“When you’re boycotting, you’re hurting not only the businesses but the people who are working there,” he said.

Cunningham said he disagrees with Nantambu’s criticism of CMS’ scheduling the makeup day on the King holiday.

“I think it was a great way to honor Dr. King because he believed in education,” he said. “And I think education is key to the advancement of African-Americans.”

Like Cox, Cunningham moved to Charlotte in 2008 and said he hasn’t encountered any racism.

Kevin Gatlin, a 39-year-old black man and owner of Digital Media Network, a Charlotte company that produces commercials for small businesses that are broadcast on hotel televisions and Fit City TV, would not say whether he agreed or disagreed with the call for a boycott.

“Historically, the (national) NAACP has always been for economic development,” he said.

Gatlin, who moved to Charlotte from Denver, Colo., about 22 years ago, said he has never encountered racism in the Queen City.

“It opens up different economic opportunities to anyone who is doing good business, black or white,” he said.

Sam Boykin can be reached at sam.boykin@mecktimes.com.

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