Someone recently asked me why I quit the City of Oakland after our Super Bowl work. I state "our" because the Oakland Alameda County Sports Commission, which I created and grew to a board of over 45 people, did do a lot of work.
The handwriting was on the wall for me when, during a October 25th 2000 meeting with the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority to gain a vote to approve a contract between the NFL and the authority for the use of the stadium and arena for the 2005 Super Bowl, I learned from Ignacio De La Fuente -- the authority's president -- that he and Mayor Jerry Brown and a few others (including California Commercial Investments; Phil Tagami) had held meetings on the Super Bowl behind my back. That news also fit with callls from the NFL asking me why certain members of the City of Oakland were calling them to ask questions about the Super Bowl rather than ask me those questions.
But when I got that information from Ignacio, I hit the ceiling. Enough was enough.
On top of that, the authority took a vote of "no action" on the matter of supporting a contract. The vote was three-to-one, and the one vote of support was from Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele. Since Oakland District Six Councilmember Larry Reid was -- at least in name -- Chairperson on our Oakland Alameda Country Sports Commission (and always expected me to remember to include him for Super Bowl tickets -- which I did in 1999), I at least expected a vote of support from him. He didn't give it.
I had expected a vote of two-to-two: a deadlock at best. Didn't happen.
When I arrived home that evening, all of the crap I'd endured -- to that point -- had just boiled up inside and came out in an email that I'm actually very happy I wrote. See, Jerry Brown had spent much of the time I worked on the Super Bowl either ignoring me or discrediting me. On April 21st of 1999 at 4:10 PM and during a reception in the City Adminstration Building -- Dalziel, as it's called -- I attempted to talk with him for the first time about our Super Bowl effort.
Jerry was standing with his long-time aide Jacques Barzaghi at the time when he turned and said "I don't have time for you."
That's the kind of insult one doesn't forget.
As the year went on, there were those in the City who seemed --and in some cases were -- working to cause me to fail. Either because they didn't like that I dated interracially and with white or Asian women (seriously) -- some people in the City at the time were a little too focused on your personal life outside the City of Oakland -- or because they resented the fact that I was in charge of the Super Bowl project and not them. (This in spite of the fact that they didn't know what to do -- not a clue.)
Then there was Jerry. Jerry had a habit of picking out people at lower levels of government and talking to them about some matter of policy. I saw him get out of the "Mayor's Lincoln" with -- not department heads or assistant department heads -- but with some common staffer of a lower rank many times. What went through my head was that Jerry had time for them, but not for the one person working on what was the largest event / economic development project the City had ever taken on.
That was stupid. But it went on and on and on.
On top of that, I expected both Phil Tagami, whom I had really supported in his work to get the $32 million Rotunda Building contract (which I knew would make him a millionaire and he deserved it), and John Protopapas, who I worked to be relieved of a $918,000 tax burden related to his aquisition of the Tribune Tower (which he wonderfully redeveloped) to help me in getting Jerry to focus on the Super Bowl. Well, they did -- but behind my back.
They met with Jerry and Ignacio and -- I was told -- considered the innovative sponsorship system I created. But didn't understand it. HA. They didn't even have me in the room to explain it. Meanwhile, none other than Mike Lynch, the head of Worldwide Sponsorships for VISA, which is a key NFL Sponsor, said it was "innovative and worthy of consideration." But they didn't know enough to ask Mike or anyone in the sports industry.
So, all of this and other matters went through my head and so I wrote an email that essentially said Jerry Brown had issues working with well-spoken, young African American men. In other words, he was more comfortable with blacks who knew their place and were downtrodden; ambitious, young, agressive, smart and articulate black men who don't fit the normal stereotypes were not seen on Jerry's direct staff at the time. I also pointed out that Jerry had no African Americans on his staff at the time. None. I accused Jerry of refusing to meet with me for almost two years.
And he's met with me before that, but that was when he needed my help as he was running for Mayor. It was John Protopappas who told Jerry he should meet with me to be briefed on downtown Oakland's redevelopment process and problems. So, I'd had a lot of evidence. For example, Jerry never asked me about my Super Bowl budget directly at all, even though I gave it to him directly. What he did was go to the SF Chronicle columnist report that my budget figures were different than his -- but he didn't have any. Plus, no one in the City of Oakland knew how to develop a Super Bowl budget except me. Why? Because I was coached by the NFL, that's why.
Plus, regardless of how many times I'd call him, Jerry would never meet with me. He'd talk to Robert Bobb about the Super Bowl, but not me.
So all this went through my mind. Then I wrote an email to my entire Oakland Alameda County Sports Commission Board that eventually was passed from Tagmi to SF Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson, who wrote this column after I quit.
(For reasons I never understood, Chip --- the Chronicle's East Bay Columnist -- never once interviewed me during my Super Bowl work. Not once. He'd call Jerry, but not me. By contrast, the best work on our effort was done by the San Jose Mercury News, although I do give the Chronicle's Rick DelVecchio credit for his work.)
The email was also passed to Jerry Brown by Tagami. It had an impact in two ways: first, Jerry finally -- finally called to meet with me about the Super Bowl. Second, I learned that Jerry read it directly from Jerry himself. Later the same day we met, I was on my way up stairs to his office to give him one of 40 Palm Piliot's designed for our Super Bowl Bid by Palm Computer and each personalized with the name of an NFL Owner. I had one made in Jerry's name.
I saw him on the way upstairs to his office, when he said "Are you going to appologize for that email?" To which I started to do so, but within about three seconds all the anger built up and I replied "You know there's an old saying. When you go to the biggest dance of the year, you dance with who brung ya, and that's me." I then got after him for not giving me the support I needed. His replied that I was coming up with wild budget figures, and I told him that he never asked me about my budget and the other people in the City Manager's Office didn't know what they were doing.
He then said "You're not going to Atlanta", and his aide John Betterton said "But thanks for the Palm Pilot." (The way he put it was almost appologetic.) As if Jerry was going to stop me. He couldn't. The contract to present a Super Bowl bid was between the NFL and the "Oakland Super Bowl Bidding Committee" which was ran by me -- not the City of Oakland. So I could have sued the City of Oakland for tortious interference. That set up was by design and done by me a long time ago. I didn't want the City of Oakland blocking our effort without merit.
So, the next day Robert Bobb got Jerry and I got together in Jerry's office. Jerry pointed at one of Robert Bobb's aides, a young African American woman, and said "See, I have blacks working for me." I said nothing. I wanted to get down to the business of the Super Bowl and our Atlanta presentation.
We did. Finally.
I got Jerry a nice suite in Atanta. The "Presidential" suite, as it was called. We had a kind of gathering of the members of the Oakland deligation there: Jerry, Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele, Oakland-Alameda County Sports Commission board member and my good friend Beth Schnitzer, Oakland-Alameda County Sports Commission board member and another good friend Gary Baeur of Baeur's Limosines, Robert Bobb, and me.
"What are you going to do after The Super Bowl?" Jerry asked. Since I took the signal that I was on the way out, I figured I say this: "I gave my blood for the City of Oakland. I'm done. I don't know, yet." That's what I said.
Jerry did a great job in Atlanta. He gave a speech that was met with an ovation from the NFL Owners, some standing. It was one of the best speeches I've ever seen by an elected official. Period. In my top five.
We lost to Jacksonville, whom I latter learned had actually lied to the NFL about their bid. They had not one of the reported 17,000 rooms under contract. We had 7,138 rooms under contract and a letter of committment from the San Mateo County Convention and Visitors Bureau for 15,000 more.
When I returned from Atlanta, I was all set to leave. At one point, Economic Development head Bill Claggett had said they were going to commit $80,000 to my Sports Commission. I knew Jerry couldn't get over being called racist, but that's what I believed at the time; there was no reason in my mind for him to behave the way he did. Robert Bobb wanted me to write a staff report on the Super Bowl, so I did as I recall. But after a week they didn't make any moves to keep me, so I wrote a stinging press release, and got out.
I'm so glad I did. The four years and six months of developing and now running Sports Business Simulations have been the best years of my professional life. I've had great experiences, still have a wonderful relationship with the NFL, and am able to help many people.
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