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If Taylor Swift deserves a banner at Staples Center, so does Nipsey Hussle

If Taylor Swift deserves a banner at Staples Center, so does Nipsey Hussle
Nipsey Hussle performs onstage at the Warner Music Grammy Awards party at the NoMad Hotel on Feb. 7. (Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)

As Lauren London stood before a capacity crowd at Staples Center last week at Nipsey Hussle’s memorial to deliver an emotional tribute to the man she called “the love of my life,” she took a moment to look at the crowd.

“I’d like to say something to my city, Los Angeles,” she said. “If you’re from Los Angeles, stand up.”

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Without hesitation, the more than 20,000 Angelenos in attendance stood up and began to applaud.

“This pain is ours,” she said. “We know what Nip meant to us. We lost an incredible soul. We lost someone very rare. We lost a real one and we won’t ever be the same. But in Hussle’s words, because he used to always say this: ‘The game is going to test you. Never fold. Stay 10 toes down. It’s not on you, it’s in you and what’s in you they can’t take away.’ And he’s in all of us.”

I had experienced a wide range of emotions at Staples Center since it opened nearly 20 years ago, but it was the first time I cried in the building where sports fans have experienced so much joy and pain.

As Los Angeles mourned the loss of one of its own I couldn’t help but look up at the rafters at Staples Center and imagine what Hussle would have thought of his life being celebrated under the championship banners and retired jerseys of the Lakers. No one represented L.A. more than Hussle and he occasionally sat courtside at Lakers games wearing the retired jerseys of Magic Johnson and Wilt Chamberlain.

The highlight of the Lakers’ otherwise forgettable season might have been Hussle standing up in his No. 32 Johnson jersey, hitching up his pants and looking like he was ready to jump into the Lakers-Rockets scuffle during the home opener.

Looking at the banners and jerseys of the players and teams that have given this city so much, it was hard to ignore Taylor Swift’s banner, commemorating her 16 sold-out shows at Staples Center. I never thought she deserved a banner. I’ve always felt that honor should be reserved for the teams and players that call Staples Center home. But for the first time, during Hussle’s memorial, I didn’t mind it. Her banner perhaps opens the door for other artists to be similarly recognized.

Swift was born in Pennsylvania and resides in New York and Nashville. She hasn’t performed at Staples Center since her banner was unveiled in 2015. There are multiple online petitions to have it removed but I’m more concerned with the arena actually honoring an artist who represents Los Angeles, if it’s going to recognize individuals outside of the Lakers, Kings, Sparks and Clippers. Hussle may not have sold out Staples Center 16 times, but no one embodies the spirit of Los Angeles more, and his memorial will forever be remembered as one of the most emotional events the arena has hosted. It was bigger than a cookie-cutter concert duplicated in cities around the world. It was a celebration of the city and one if its favorite sons.

A banner honoring Taylor Swift during her "1989" world tour at Staples Center in August 2015.
A banner honoring Taylor Swift during her "1989" world tour at Staples Center in August 2015. (Matt Sayles / Associated Press)

The banners that hang in Los Angeles’ sports cathedral should make everyone smile when they look up and cause them to think of all the memories they represent. A banner recognizing Hussle in the arena that served as his final stage would be fitting.

I don’t know what it would look like, but if it were anything like the handmade banners made by LAFC fans at Banc of California Stadium on Saturday, or the murals of Hussle that have been painted around the city, it would be something everyone in L.A. could be proud of.

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The Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park on Monday completed the outer shell of the canopy that will sit above the stadium bowl and performance venue.

As Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff walked around the eighth level of the stadium, he stopped and looked down on what will be a football field next year and smiled.

“I just think back to all the stops and starts and the renderings during the 20 years Los Angeles didn’t have a team,” Demoff said. “Even before that when the teams played in outdated stadiums. To build the first modern stadium Los Angeles has had in years, that will bring the Super Bowl, Olympics and other big events back to the city, is so unbelievable.”

Demoff said the stadium is on schedule to open during the summer of 2020 with the hope of hosting concerts and international soccer matches as “dry runs” before the first Rams preseason game. He said he’s also hopeful of announcing a naming rights partner for the stadium before it opens.

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“We want to make sure we find the right partner for this unbelievable building,” Demoff said. “We want it to be the right match for the stadium project and for Inglewood. Hopefully it will be shorter than the official name right now” — Los Angeles Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park — “unless we find a company with a really long name.”

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While the Rams and Chargers make plans to move into their new Inglewood home next year, the Clippers are continuing with their plans to move into their new Inglewood arena across the street in 2024. Despite facing legal obstacles from the Madison Square Garden Company, which owns the nearby Forum, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and Inglewood mayor James Butts are confident the arena will be built.

“It’s absolutely going to happen,” Butts said Monday. “In the next 60 days they’re going to have a model of the arena for everybody to see. Things are on track and we look forward to the Clippers joining us in Inglewood in 2024.”

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