The NFL's Rams and Chargers have come to Los Angeles seeking the riches the nation's second-largest media market can provide. Those riches include 13,340,068 potential ticket buyers, existing in what is arguably the world's outdoor-sports capital with world-leading advertising, sponsorship and television opportunities.
But local civil rights leaders, already flexing muscle over what they see as the NFL's blacklisting of former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick because of his public stance against police brutality, want to see some opportunities for locals, too. Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, says he and colleagues looked at dozens of "names and faces" from the front-office rosters for the Rams and Chargers and could only come up with a handful of African-Americans and Latinos.
"The Chargers have yet to hire a local African-American to any position of consequence within their organization," according to a statement from the group. The teams did not respond to our request for comment.
Two letters have been sent to Rams and Chargers officials requesting meetings with owners Stan Kroenke and Alex Spanos. The first was sent more than two weeks ago. The second was sent Friday. If there continues to be no response, Hutchinson says, demonstrators will present a "white paper" with more detailed front-office hiring figures during the Rams' Sept. 10 home opener at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
"Where are the African-Americans?" Hutchinson says. "We're talking about off the field. We're not talking about players and coaches. We looked at the media guide, the names and faces, to see who they're hiring. We see hardly any African-Americans and only one or two Hispanics."
Najee Ali of the National Action Network's L.A. chapter, which has signed on to the campaign to hire more people of color in the NFL's local executive suites, says the diversity optics are particularly bad because Los Angeles County is nearly 75 percent minority and Inglewood, where the teams will ultimately play when a new stadium is scheduled to open in 2020, is a historically African-American city.
The Rams' South L.A. home, the Coliseum, is in a traditionally black community where whites comprise only 1 percent of the population. Carson, where the Chargers are playing temporarily, is nearly one-quarter African-American and 38 percent Latino, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. "I believe the hiring practices and lack of diversity at the Rams and Chargers should be looked at, especially when they play in the heart of the black and brown community," Ali says.
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"You have some of the most diverse communities on the planet," Hutchinson says. "It's not enough just to have a black head coach as the Chargers do. There are dozens of positions that demand equal opportunity to make them more reflective of the communities they're going to be playing in."
If the teams don't come with a diversity hiring plan, Hutchinson says, "We're going to challenge them and embarrass them."
The same day that the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable plans to reveal the front-office diversity figures for the Rams and Chargers, Ali and local members of the National Action Network plan a larger-than-usual demonstration over Kaepernick outside the Coliseum's opening-day festivities. Ali says protesters could block traffic.
"We have to disrupt the normal operation of business," he says.