Inglewood Won the NFL, But L.A. Took the Credit
When it comes to landing an NFL team, Inglewood, population 111,905, is the little city that could.
Big, bad Los Angeles approved a downtown stadium project in 2011. But, just as the NFL finally, really warmed up to the idea of moving a team here last year, the project was dead.
Inglewood did what L.A. City Hall couldn't, not only fast-tracking approval of Rams owner Stan Kroenke's plans for a 70,000-plus-seat venue in less than half the time it took Los Angeles to get it together but putting forth a project that NFL owners got behind this week when they voted to approve Inglewood over Carson's own NFL dreams.
Yet if you let your eyes and ears take in various reports yesterday, the man of the hour was one Eric Garcetti, mayor of the city of Los Angeles.
He didn't mention Mayor James T. Butts, leader of the actual city where the Rams will play in 2018 or 2019 when the $1.8 billion-plus stadium is ready for action.
Garcetti appeared to hog the spotlight, despite having virtually nothing to do with Wednesday's NFL decision.
"I always said this was good for the region,'' Garcetti said at a press conference. "My first choice was here in downtown initially, but the hotels that are in the city of L.A. will still be filled during these games. The construction jobs will still go to the men and women who live here."
Garcetti appeared before reporters, and he spoke to various outlets, including the NFL Network in Culver City.
"This kind of cements what I believe about Los Angeles, that this is the best city in the world for sports," he told journalists. "The last part of our résumé that was missing.
"I was frequently in conversation with my fellow mayors in the region with the commissioner, with the owners, over the last couple of years," Garcetti said. "I had lunches with them, tried to facilitate, let them know this was a unified region, for whatever team ... ."
Inglewood city officials who did not want their names used said Garcetti did no such thing when it comes to being "frequently in conversation" with Butts.
We were told Inglewood's mayor did not want to comment.
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But other sources made clear to us they felt that Los Angeles' top politician was taking credit and overshadowing Inglewood during a red-letter day.
That Inglewood is a traditionally African-American city, which has received its share of biased press coverage, hasn't helped, the sources argued.
"Somehow, there is an odd effort by some in the city to the north (Los Angeles) to diminish Inglewood's success by suggesting football has returned to Los Angeles — a grand city in its own right who also vied to be the destination for the National Football League," said Marc T. Little, president of the Inglewood Airport Area Chamber of Commerce. "Certainly, the return of the NFL to the second largest media market in the nation benefits all Angelenos, but we must give credit where credit is due."
Inglewood city officials echoed that sentiment, saying the underdog town succeeded where others failed but did not draw much attention yesterday from national and local media.
Despite tremendous success attracting sports and entertainment facilities, including a redeveloped Forum, Inglewood's largely nonwhite population garners less respect, officials argued.
To be fair, Los Angeles is less than one-third white.
In any case, Little wants to set the record straight about who the real winner here is:
The return of football to Southern California has been attempted over the past 20 years by some of the most influential leaders of our time. However, a small group of unified civic leaders and staff led by Mayor James Butts in the City of Inglewood in partnership with a developer (Wilson Meany Sullivan), who had the foresight and temerity to bet on Inglewood with no promise of reward, accomplished the impossible. And with the commitment and heft of Rams owner Stan Kroenke, Inglewood is the newest home for America's greatest sport.
The work of these Inglewood leaders and visionaries resulted in the extraordinary. So, let's be clear, the National Football League landed in Inglewood this week — the City of Champions.
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