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Bruce Smith asks if he’s being kept off Virginia Beach because he’s black

Bruce Smith answers questions from the media during the The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2009 press conference at the Tampa Convention Center on January 31, 2009 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — In an open letter to Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, NFL Hall of Famer and former Virginia Tech football star Bruce Smith asked whether the city was discriminating against him because of his race.

Smith, who is now a real estate developer, said he has been trying to open up an oceanfront business for a decade. Each time he comes up with a proposal, he said he was turned down.

“Despite my unflagging efforts and the inherent merits of these projects that would generate thousands of jobs and revenue for the city, I have been met with unwarranted opposition and refusals,” Smith wrote in the letter. “Upon inquiry into why lucrative proposals have been rejected, I have received only the most evasive and nonsensical of answers in response.”

Smith goes on to question whether the real problem is not his ideas, but the color of his skin.

“With all the qualifications I have brought to the table as a developer, it is certainly not unfounded that I would ponder the possibility that I am being unfairly marginalized and excluded on the basis of race,” he wrote. “I am left to question whether we are still operating under the implicit mandate of the Old South which would require that economic empowerment and enfranchisement be reserved for whites only.”

Smith’s letter did not detail the kinds of business ideas he has pitched to city officials.

Smith has planned a Monday press conference.