"Every August, you feel like you're missing something if you don't play," Brooks said. "By default, working with pro football, the Eagles, was a dream in itself."
But that changed May 9, when Joe Zurzolo, sales manager for the Eagles Radio Network, handed Brooks and each of the seven account executives working with him a book titled New Dress for Success by John T. Molloy.
Brooks, who is African American, said that he and the others were urged to read the book and use it as a training tool. That was fine until he reached the chapter "When Blacks and Hispanics Sell to Whites (And Vice Versa)."
The chapter started with a lukewarm disclaimer about racial prejudice and proceeded to embrace the crudest of stereotypes, ones so disturbing that they led Brooks to eventually resign and file a discrimination suit with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, which found in his favor.
One passage from the offending chapter in the best-seller reads: "Blacks selling to whites should not wear Afro hair styles or any clothing that is African in association. If you're selling to corporate America it is very important that you dress, not as well as the white salesmen, but better than them."
Another excerpt reads: "If you're black selling to white middle America, dress as a white. Wear conservative pinstripe suits, preferably with vests, accompanied by all the establishment symbols, including the Ivy League tie."
The chapter continues: "If you are a Hispanic (Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban or other Latin American), you should avoid pencil-line mustaches, any articles of clothing that have Hispanic associations, and anything that is very sharp or precise. Also avoid any hair tonic that tends to give a greasy or shiny look to the hair; this also triggers a strong negative reaction."
"What does this have to do with dressing for success?" Brooks said during an interview. "It really hurt to have a book that was given to me by the director basically say, 'We condone this.' At first, I was . . . in fact, I'm still angry. I just thought of the irony. Eagles football is run on the backs of young African American men."
Slightly more than 70 percent of NFL players are black.
"What about Donovan McNabb?" Brooks continued. "I'm sure he would have issues with some of these views. Even Caucasian players would."
The book, which was published in 1988 by Warner Books and updated in 1998, also described poor, inner-city blacks in the northern United States as anti-establishment and said that women should be used to sell to them because they view women as being outside the establishment.
There are other conclusions, "like don't wear a suit or uniform when you're dealing with an African American," said Brooks, a native of Camden. "That's basically saying, 'Treat them as a second-class citizen. Don't give them the professionalism you would if they were Caucasian.' "
A day or two after receiving the book, Brooks went to an administrator to complain, but instead of being referred to the human-resources offices in New York, where WYSP's parent companies, Infinity Broadcasting and Viacom Inc., have their headquarters, he was referred back to Zurzolo, his immediate supervisor, and Peter Kleiner, the general sales manager for the Eagles Radio Network. WYSP-FM is the flagship station of the network.
Because he was the only black in his group of eight people, which also included five white males and two white females, Brooks said that he believed that he eventually would lose his job if he took his complaint to Zurzolo or Kleiner.
So on May 23, Brooks resigned, and several weeks later, he filed a racial-discrimination and harassment complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, which found in his favor and recommended that Viacom reach a settlement with him.
Attorneys for Brooks and for Viacom Inc. have yet to settle the dispute, which will go to Philadelphia Common Pleas Court if no agreement is reached.
Kleiner did not return phone calls on the subject, and Zurzolo could not be reached after several attempts. Richard Tim Brown, a Viacom attorney familiar with the case, declined to comment.
"Nobody would talk to me," Brooks said. "I had the sales manager and the general sales manager not trying to solve this as a neutral person but more so trying to cover it up. If I work under [Zurzolo] and work closely with him on an everyday basis, sure, there's going to be some resentment. It would have been a matter of time before they found another reason [to fire me]."
Brooks said that the Eagles Radio Network would be hard-pressed to fire him on the basis of productivity.
"When I walked away, it was about principle, and I left about $250,000 in deals that I was entitled to 40 percent of," he said. "I'm not going to be bought in this day and time when a lot of people might say, 'Just turn the other cheek or ignore it.' I felt, 'What about the next Shawn Brooks that comes in? Or Jose Rivera? He'll be faced with those same issues.' "
Brooks, who has since begun working for Phillips Insurance Co. and Phillips Holdings, which owns the Coliseum in Voorhees, Camden County, said that the Eagles Radio Network, which pulled in about $8 million in 2000 and $9 million last season, still owes him about $45,000.
"To show you how business is," he said, "I left in May and they didn't take my voice mail [message] off until the first of October. They had my voice mail set up so I couldn't access it."
Brooks believes that the voice mail was left in his voice so that the network could continue to sell to clients he had cultivated. It was only changed after repeated requests by Brooks and his representatives, he said.
"I come from a very diverse family," Brooks said. "I have white people, Latinos, blacks and Japanese in my family. I'm blessed with that. That's the platform I stand on. Fair is fair. People are universal."
Contact Mike Bruton at 215-854-2739 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Excerpts From 'New Dress for Success'
According to Shawn Brooks, a former account executive at the Eagles Radio Network, eight employees of the network were given the book "New Dress for Success" and urged to read it and use it as a training tool. Here are some excerpts:
* "Blacks selling to whites should not wear Afro hair styles or any clothing that is African in association."
* "If you're black selling to white middle America, dress as a white. Wear conservative pinstripe suits, preferably with vests . . . including the Ivy League tie."
* "If you are a Hispanic (Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban or other Latin American), you should avoid pencil-line mustaches, any articles of clothing that have Hispanic associations, and anything that is very sharp or precise."