Beyond the Rhetoric
By Harry C. Alford
Oh how I remember those beautiful Sundays when my father would take me to the Los Angeles Rams football games. We would drop my mom and baby brother off at my Aunt Lula’s home and we would journey down Hoover Ave. to the fabulous Los Angeles Coliseum. Home of the Rams NFL team and the mighty University of Southern California Trojans football team. The Coliseum (capacity 100,000) still stands today and is useful as any other stadium in the nation. However, soon that became a problem.
It was built in 1932 for the Olympics. The whole world marveled at it and it became the host to the 1984 Olympics as well. The owner of the Rams noticed all of the new stadiums going up around the nation. He started demanding a new stadium for his Rams – not that he needed it but just for the fashion. Besides the Coliseum was located near South Central Los Angeles and that gives the image of a “Black thing.” Shockingly to Rams fans he packed up and moved his team to Orange County for a temporary location until some city would offer the team a brand new home. It was like a death in the family to me. Later, the Rams would find their new and pretty stadium in St. Louis, Missouri.
The Oakland Raiders would desert their fans and city in exchange for the magnificent LA Coliseum and NFL starved fans of Los Angeles. The city fell in love with the Raiders and being that it was a winning team at the time was frosting on the “cake.” But after a few years the Raiders would return to Oakland, California and once again LA was without an NFL franchise. It seems very odd that the second largest city in the nation was without a money making football team. The Sundays were so lonely.
But times have changed after a few decades. The city of Los Angeles has agreed to allow not one but two new stadiums. They may be the venues for two if not three teams! Neighboring Orange County may jump in the game and build a new stadium for the San Diego Chargers who is leaving because no new stadium has been approved in San Diego. The Los Angeles Rams will be returning via converting the Santa Anita Racetrack grounds (Inglewood suburb) into a new stadium. The Carson suburb will house the second stadium and, in the end, the Chargers and Raiders will share the venue.
Both stadiums will be in predominantly Black neighborhoods. There will be some eminent domain declared by Los Angeles County and some Black families and small businesses will be getting the “boot.” The exploitation will start with developers and many of those Blacks will become “refugees” in their own city. But so what??? LA has NFL football back where it should be.
Much of the money to build these two stadiums will come from the citizens of greater Los Angeles. They will have no say in this but their property and sales tax will go up and a huge revenue bond will be created by Wall Street. This fund will be paid back plus interest to the investors. The citizens of Los Angeles will be the debtors and payment via more taxation and without their approval will be assessed to them.
The huge funding will be applied to the design and construction of the stadiums. At first look, you imagine contracts for businesses and jobs for the people. True but there is one “catch.” No Blacks will be allowed to participate in this economic windfall. They will pay taxes and may lose their neighborhoods but forget about winning contracts and participating in the jobs activity. You see, Los Angeles is a big union town. In fact, the whole state of California is. These stadiums most likely will have Project Labor Agreements attached to them. PLA’s mean union only. The big problem is that 98% of Black contractors are non-union. The union halls are notorious for discrimination against Black and females. Hispanics will be greatly under-utilized also.
Let’s look at the new stadium for the San Francisco 49ers. Despite constant protests and exposure (they have no shame), hardly any Blacks participated in this great project. When they built PacBell Park for the San Francisco Giants baseball team they slowed down the progress because there was a shortage on union labor. Rather than hire Blacks and Hispanics for the project they waited for more unionized whites to become available. The project did not finish on time and was $70 million over budget.
Unless the people of Los Angeles will somehow wake up to the game, it is going to happen again. Public funds will not be used for the general public workforce. The stench of construction union manipulation is already starting to appear. Maybe this time the people will take it to the streets and change the status quo. We will be watching.
Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org Email: [email protected] .