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Updated Nov 2, 2011 - 10:17 am

Halloween costume sparks NAACP criticism of Coyotes, Cardinals

The head of the Maricopa County NAACP, Reverand Oscar Tilman, is asking for a meeting with Phoenix Coyotes player Raffi Torres over a Halloween costume.

The controversy started when Torres' teammate, Paul Bissonette, tweeted out a picture of Torres and his wife Gianna at a Halloween party. They were dressed as the rap star Jay-Z and singer Beyonce Knowles. The problem is they wore blackface makeup, which Tilman says is offensive to African-Americans. Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke said in his column that blackface is "a degrading form of makeup used to parody African-Americans."

The Coyotes sent KTAR this statement supporting Torres and his wife:

"There was absolutely nothing racist about Raffi or his wife's costumes. Raffi is a huge fan of Jay Z and his wife loves Beyonce. It was a Halloween party. The fact that this was reported is ridiculous."

Tilman disagrees:

"I'm very disappointed," says Tilman. "For them to come back and say this is no big tell them to walk back 40, 50, 60 years and come through what I've been through and seen what this blackface has done. Then we'll see how big a deal it was."

Tilman wants to tell Torres why wearing the makeup is wrong.

"I will gladly sit down with him and let him know the history of what that means," Tilman says. "I would love for him to say 'it's not that I love Jay-Z and Beyonce' to do this, but I would like to know the history of why I shouldn't have done it.' That is a change."

The Coyotes statement says the team will have no further comment on the incident.

Tilman also says he's fed up with the Coyotes. He says he has been requesting that the team become more involved with Phoenix's African-American community for 15 years. He says every time he's requested the team send a representative to take part in an event, the request has been ignored. The Coyotes aren't the only team he's upset with.

"I've tried to reach out to the Cardinals. Got Nothing. I can't even get (Cardinals owner) Bill Bidwill to meet with me," Tilman says. "So when you've got these type of people up there, that's not involved with the community, you're going to have people like Raffi Torres doing this." He says both the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks have good relations with the African-American community, dating back to the days when Jerry Colangelo ran those teams.

Tilman believes that if the Coyotes reached out to the African-American community, it would help to spread more interest in hockey in the Phoenix area. "We have kids growing up every day that I'm sure would love to learn more about hockey and be a part of the Coyotes," says Tilman. "But if no one is reaching out to them, bringing them in, and letting them meet players like Raffi, where are they going to go?"

Tilman referred to both the Coyotes and the Cardinals as "losers."


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