Controversy Continues Over ‘Racist’ Board Game

Following protests and uproar from Philadelphia’s black community and outrage throughout the country, Urban Outfitters pulled a board game titled “Ghettopoly” from its shelves earlier this month.

Urban Outfitters, a Philadelphia-based retail chain of 53 stores nationwide, was the only venue to sell the game, other than retailers on the Internet. Yahoo! and eBay also announced that they would discontinue online sales of the game.

“Obviously when I saw it, it was disgusting and when I looked at the Web site, it was even worse,” Penn UMOJA representative Chevon Walker said. UMOJA is a student group that aims to unite Penn’s black students and student groups.

The College senior, who was not personally involved in protesting the sale of the game, said she is “certainly happy to hear that [Ghettopoly] has been pulled out of the shelves,” but is troubled by the fact that it was sold in the first place.

“… Why did anyone even have to tell them it’s wrong…?” she questioned.

“Due to customer concerns, Urban Outfitters no longer sells the board game Ghettopoly,” said Richard Hayne, president and chief executive officer of Urban Outfitters, Inc., in a statement released Oct. 10.

An employee at the Urban Outfitter’s location on campus, at 36th and Walnut streets, who did not want her name published, said she could not comment on the game, but confirmed that it had been removed from the store’s shelves, as well as those at other locations.

The controversial spin-off of Monopoly can still be purchased from its Web site, however, at www.ghettopoly.com.

Ghettopoly game pieces include a marijuana leaf and a machine gun in place of the traditional Monopoly top hat and car. “Playas” buy crack houses and properties including Westside Liquor, Harlem, The Bronx and Long Beach City.

Squares on the Ghettopoly board are labeled Smitty’s XXX Peep Show, Weinstein’s Gold and Platinum and Tyron’s Gun Shop.

The game incorporates stereotypes of blacks as well as other minority groups, including Jews and Asians.

Controversy over the game has even extended as far as Philadelphia politics, since the owner of Urban Outfitters is a contributor to the campaign of Sam Katz, the Republican candidate for mayor, according to his spokesman, Nate Raab.

“Sam was pleased that [Hayne] did the right thing in pulling the game off shelves,” Raab said. “He does not endorse or approve of the product.”

Members of Philadelphia’s black community protested outside Urban Outfitters’ headquarters at 16th and Walnut streets on Oct. 8. The protest was organized by the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, the Father’s Day Rally Committee and Men United for a Better Philadelphia.

In Chicago, members of the black clergy called for a boycott of Urban Outfitters. Florida chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also called for the company to stop selling the game.

Many protesters were most offended by figures labeled “Malcum X” and “Martin Luthor King Jr.” The names were intentionally misspelled by the game’s creator, David Chang, who lives in Pennsylvania.

Robert Shine Sr., president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, described the situation as sparking “a firestorm of opposition against the game across the nation.”

“We are offended,” he said, explaining that the game “expressed a racist mentality.”

Specifically, he noted that it employed “characterizations of African Americans,” including women, that presented them in a “denigrating manner” and a “demeaning way.”

Despite controversy over the board game, its creator states on its Web site that “Ghettopoly is controversial because it’s both fun and real life.”

Chang is currently facing a lawsuit filed by Hasbro, Inc., the company that produces Monopoly. Chang told The Associated Press that he intends to fight the lawsuit.

According to Shine, he and others have attempted to contact and meet with Chang, but Chang has not agreed to do so.

Chang’s Web site also advertises new games “coming soon,” including “Hoodopoly,” “Hiphopoly,” “Thugopoly” and “Redneckopoly.”

And although the company agreed to remove the game from its shelves, its opponents say they will continue to lobby against it.

“It’s not over yet,” Shine said. “While they took it off the shelves, they did not take it off the Internet…. Clergy here in Philadelphia and across the nation are continuing their vigilance in opposing the sale of this game until it is removed from the Internet.”

To do so, they will use talk radio programs and circulate online petitions, he said.

“We were successful in having removed [the game] from Urban,” he said. But “we are not satisfied because the maker of the game had several other games in mind. We are still very concerned about Mr. Chang.”

Urban Outfitters national representatives did not return calls for comment yesterday.