Pro football’s political cheerleaders

Today, Sanders and Schmidt assess the future of L.A.'s relationship with the NFL after local elections this year. Yesterday, they debated whether it's worth spending public money on bringing an NFL team to L.A. Tomorrow and Friday, they'll discuss USC's lease negotiations with the Coliseum Commission and the rising popularity of professional soccer in Southern California.

Politics is only part of luring the NFLBy Barry A. Sanders
I don't know. I am only a neophyte when it comes to politics. Furthermore, even though I like both state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas and Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks, I am not the guy to endorse candidates, and this is not the place to do so.

All three of the officials about whom we are speaking have been and continue to be supporters of bringing the National Football League back to Los Angeles. For the last several years, the most active of them has been Parks, who not only represents the 8th City Council District, which includes the Coliseum, but is also president of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission. His commitment to bringing pro football to our town has made him a well-known and respected figure in the halls of the NFL. He knows all of the ins and outs of this complicated matter. His devotion to L.A.'s football cause is palpable.

Whichever man succeeds Yvonne B. Burke on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will represent a district that includes the Coliseum and will likely be one of the board's representatives on the Coliseum Commission. We can expect no diminution in the fervor that either Ridley-Thomas or Parks have expressed in bringing the NFL and its resultant economic opportunities to Los Angeles. Whether that means focusing on the Coliseum or some other location remains to be seen, considering both the NFL's views of the Coliseum and the University of Southern California's rights with respect to the stadium.

The wild card in this game of musical chairs is who will inherit Parks' seat on the City Council should Parks move to the Board of Supervisors. We do not know who that person will be or what position on the NFL that person will take.

However, looking for something that would "affect the dynamics of football in the city" is not just about elections. The way we do things in L.A., an NFL team is a private investment. As I said yesterday, government's role is to provide leadership and help make the investment attractive with a good regulatory and tax climate. But government should not spend our tax money on this. Investors with deep pockets who are acceptable to the NFL must step forward and take the financial risk to make this happen. The emergence of such a person or persons is what will have the most effect on the dynamics of bringing the NFL to Los Angeles.

Barry A. Sanders is an international corporate lawyer, member of the Coliseum Commission, president of the L.A. City Recreation and Parks Commission, chairman of the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games and an adjunct professor of communications studies at UCLA.


No matter who wins, the future isn't brightBy Scott Olin Schmidt
Barry, you are too humble. I have to agree with your prediction that regardless of the outcome, Parks will continue in his role on the Coliseum Commission and continue to pursue his dream of bringing the NFL back to the stadium — even at the expense of relations with the Coliseum's most-prized tenant, USC.

Unfortunately, Parks has tried to pit USC against the neighborhood and build a coalition of Coliseum Commission members to join him in holding out hope for bringing an NFL franchise to his district.

But as we're seeing with the presidential election, minority communities, like those surrounding USC's campus, are not monolithic, nor should they be. There are no warm and fuzzy feelings between Parks and Ridley-Thomas, and things will get only more acrimonious over the course of a contested election. If the senator prevails and joins Parks on the Coliseum Commission, you may just see a crack in the body's unanimity of late.

The wild card — as you points out, Barry — is what happens to the City Council seat and who might replace Parks if he wins the supervisor race or faces term limits. The demographics of the 8th District are changing, both from a rising Latino population and the gentrification of South Park spreading south into the Figueroa Corridor neighborhood just south of downtown L.A. At some point, these changes will be reflected in the region's elected officials — and with gentrification usually comes NIMBYism, so it is no longer a given that the area's councilman would want to bring the traffic and other negative impacts of the NFL into the neighborhood.

It's been 12 years since the NFL left Los Angeles, and it feels like it could be another 12 before it comes back. In that time, Los Angeles has had three mayors, the 8th District has had two council members, and the state Assembly and Senate seats have turned over several times — yet the only things that have changed the dynamic of football in Los Angeles have been the arrivals of USC football Coach Pete Carroll and David Beckham to Southern California. I seriously doubt that yet another election will change a thing.

Scott Olin Schmidt covers Pac-10 football for AOL Sports' FanHouse and politics at Spot-on.com. Schmidt is a transportation commissioner for the city of West Hollywood, where he operates his New Media Outreach consulting firm, RSC Partners.

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