02-19-2017  3:49 am      •     

RICHMOND, Va. (NNPA) - Richmond's new professional baseball team could soon be called the Flying Squirrels or the Flatheads or even the Hush Puppies or Rock Hoppers or Rhinos.
But the relocated minor league franchise that once bore the proud, straitlaced name of the Connecticut Defenders will definitely not be called the Hambones. The team's management dropped that name like a hot potato after the Free Press and the state NAACP raised concerns about the name's connections to slavery and demeaning minstrel shows. Hambone refers to a dance routine involving thigh slapping, hand clapping and foot stomping.
The Free Press played a key role in scuttling the Hambones, which the management had announced as one of the finalists in the naming contest. In an e-mail Monday to Todd Parnell, vice president and chief operating officer of the Richmond team, Free Press Editor/Publisher Raymond H. Boone expressed the hope that "your organization will recognize the inappropriateness of the names in the finalists category — all of which set the stage for Richmond becoming a continuing source of demeaning jokes and insults … (Considering its history, "Hambone" is particularly troubling.) We deserve better.
"The opportunity is to raise pride in Richmond, not sink it," Boone continued, including a copy of a Free Press editorial from the Oct. 8-10 edition that urged the team to adopt such names as the Richmond Diamonds, Richmond Gems or Richmond Rapids.
In response, the team's chief executive manager, Chuck Domino, dismissed the Free Press name suggestions as "ordinary," but thanked Boone for his "insight on the Hambones. We will certainly take that into consideration."
The state NAACP raised the pressure by publicly calling on Richmond Professional Baseball, the organization led by Domino, to drop Hambones and blasting Richmond-area elected and appointed officials for failing to speak out to oppose the use of the name.
"Hambone was done on the plantation by African captives and was used at minstrel shows to entertain White audiences. It is not appropriate to use as a name for a sports team," Salim Khalfani, state executive director, charged at a press conference held outside The Diamond ballpark on North Boulevard where the team will play its games.
"If Hambone is selected as the name, what will the team mascot or logo be?" he continued. "Would it be a caricature of a Sambo, slave, minstrel or Al Jolson in White face?"
"Mr. Mayor (Dwight C. Jones), members of City Council, Richmond Sports Backers, Venture Richmond and all other organizations that should know better are conspicuous by their silence," he stated.
Khalfani called it par for the course in a city where "the disrespect is overwhelming and outrageous," citing as an example the acceptance of a banner displayed on a downtown building that depicts President Barack Obama as the White-faced Joker character from a "Batman" movie.
The NAACP protest was the final straw. In a media statement, Richmond Professional
Baseball announced within hours that it had "removed the term Hambones from consideration" and offered "a sincere apology to those that may have been offended by our mistake" in including the name.
"The name was chosen from submissions made to the Richmond Times-Dispatch," the statement continued, "and our sole intent was to utilize the concept of Virginia Ham and its history in the region. We were honestly unaware of any negative, derogatory or offensive connotations.
"Our organization in no way intended to offend any individual or segment of society."
The team partnered with the White-owned Times-Dispatch by asking people to submit names through the daily's Web site. The newspaper has reported that the finalists were selected by Domino and the team's staff after sifting through the submissions. In his e-mail to the Free Press, Domino wrote that the three names the Free Press suggested "are not the types of names that fit our marketing scheme.
"The Diamonds, the Gems and the Rapids are, well, quite ordinary," Domino stated, noting that minor league teams in many cities "carry very crazy monikers for their teams and grow to be very proud of them."
Domino is the former president and general manager of two Pennsylvania minor league teams, the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs and the Double-A Reading Phillies.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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