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County executive White alleges 'racist attack'; Jackson County legislator apologizes

Jackson County Legislator Manny Abarca.png
Posted at 6:20 PM, Mar 15, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County Executive Frank White Friday took exception to the comments made a day earlier by a Jackson County Legislator, calling them a “racist attack.”

White made his reaction public in a letter to the Kansas City Chiefs and Kansas City Royals on Friday with the subject line “Urgent call for leadership: Condemning racist rhetoric and campaign misconduct.”

LINK | Read White's letter

White’s call comes a day after Jackson County Legislator Manny Abarca posted a social media comment as part of his reaction to learning about White’s call for the two teams to pay $1 million as part of the county’s administering of the April 2 election, which includes asking voters to sign-off on the extension of a 3/8-cent sales-tax to fund stadium projects.

“It is in this light that I must call upon you, with the utmost urgency, to take immediate and unequivocal action,” White wrote in the letter. “I urge both of you to personally issue public statements condemning Legislator Abarca’s racist attack against me.”

Abarca has since apologized for the remark.

In an interview with KSHB 41 reporter Tod Palmer Friday, Abarca again apologized for his remarks.

“I want to be sincere and apologize to folks that I have offended here,” Abarca said. “This was not something that I was aware of and now very much am.”

Abarca said he’s normally “the one calling out the dog whistle scenarios.”

“It’s one of the reasons why when I was asked to edit — which now I can’t edit a tweet that has happened overnight — I said, ‘Look, I’m not going to delete it because I’m not trying to cover anything up,'" Abarca said. “I will apologize, I will atone, I will include my own education that I went back and did on my own when I was made aware of it.”

In Friday’s letter, White said he believes the campaign tactics used by those in support of the tax extension “have crossed the bounds of respectful discourse.”

“This incident is not an isolated event, but a reflection of a broader, troubling environment fostered, in part, by the narrative and strategy your organizations have chosen to adopt,” White said in the letter.

The Committee to Keep the Chiefs and Royals in Jackson County reacted to White’s call with a statement Friday afternoon, also posted on social media.

“The Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals stand firmly against racism in all its forms. Racism has no place in our society,” the statement reads. “We are united in condemning all forms of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice — as we have always done.”

The committee went on to paint White as “an unpopular and desperate politician” who “has chosen this regrettable tactic in attempt to distract the voters of Jackson County from the opportunity to continue our 50-year partnership.”

KSHB 41 reporters Tod Palmer and Charlie Keegan contributed reporting to this story.