NFL Sunday outtakes: Bernard Parks delves deeper into Los Angeles issues
LOS ANGELES -- Bernard Parks undoubtedly was the star of Sunday's feature about the NFL, Los Angeles and the Buffalo Bills.
To research the story, The Buffalo News sent me to Los Angeles for four days. I visited downtown, South Los Angeles, Pasadena, Inglewood, Glendale, La Crescenta, La Canada and some other places that have become a blur.
Of all the people I interviewed, Parks generated the most attention nationally. My story was linked by several news outlets, and all of them highlighted Parks' comments.
Rightfully so. His voice is a big one.
Parks, the former Los Angeles Police chief, represents the 8th District. That includes the area formerly known as South Central, where several people died during the 1992 Rodney King riots.
Parks also has been one of the loudest proponents for bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles. He has lobbied for his city at NFL owners meetings, Super Bowls and Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in addition to countless meetings and phone calls.
I was surprised when, exactly 42 seconds after I turned on my digital recorder, Parks delivered this quote:
"I've finally, personally come to a conclusion. I have to resign myself to the fact the NFL is not coming.
"After you put 10 years into something with nothing in return ... If this was a marriage, you'd be divorced."
Parks was a great interview subject. We sat at a large table in his 8th District headquarters on Crenshaw Boulevard. Also there were chief of staff Bernard Parks Jr. and media deputy Kimberly Briggs.
Parks did almost all of the talking. I asked very few questions. Here is a longer version of the interview.
How close is Los Angeles to being NFL-ready again?
BP: "I just think we've been used as a pawn. I just don't know if we were ever seriously considered.
"We know the NFL has no interest in expanding. We know that stadiums are absolutely essential not only for the fan environment, but they're like cash registers. An owner never is going to move into a stadium that he's a tenant because he needs the revenue. And we've been told by [former NFL Commissioner] Paul Tagliabue the NFL will never be put into a box where, 'You build a stadium and we'll show up.'
"You're almost running out of places that need stadiums. L.A. always comes into the equation whenever a city is looking for a new stadium. Lo and behold, shockingly, the stadium gets built and L.A. is not in the equation."
How pessimistic are you about the NFL coming back to Los Angeles?
BP: "I've finally, personally come to a conclusion. I have to resign myself to the fact the NFL is not coming. After you put 10 years into something with nothing in return ... If this was a marriage, you'd be divorced."
Los Angeles has represented a doomsday scenario for Bill fans for decades. Why can't that happen?
BP: "Buffalo's team, more than many other teams, is so ingrained in the community. I don't see the public letting it go. I just don't see them uprooting that team. I think they're going to get their stadium.
"There are two teams in California that need a new stadium, and there's one team in New York that needs a new stadium.
"No team [in California] is going to get general fund money to build a new stadium. Nobody. The NFL wants markets to show their commitment and chip in. Well, that's not happening anywhere in California."
The city committed to Phil Anschutz for the privately funded Farmers Field downtown, and Ed Roski has talked about his privately funded stadium plan in City of Industry for years. Where do those projects stand?
BP: "One of the major caveats of the Farmers Field deal is you must have a committed team before you can get started on the project. They've entitled the project, entitled the area, but it's a very expensive proposal. They're going to build an almost $1 billion stadium, a convention center and press it down by L.A. Live [a nightlife district that includes the Staples Center and Nokia Theatre], where you're going to have to be concerned with multiple events on the same day because it's parking-poor down there."
(Bernard Parks Jr. mentions a recent Los Angeles Times article that states the city is close to moving forward with Option B to build a hotel on the proposed Farmers Field site because there has been no movement on Anschutz acquiring an NFL team. Anschutz's exclusivity on the plot expires in October.)
BP: "I don't know if the stars are aligned to discuss it seriously. If Anschutz doesn't own a team, then building a stadium isn't going to happen. If Roski doesn't own a team, then his vision of building a stadium in the City of Industry doesn't fly.
"We've already gone through several other options. Carson was on a piece of land with toxic waste on it. Orange County was going to sell the land to the NFL for pennies on the dollar, and when the community found out about it, it went off the table. We've studied in 10 different ways."
With the Bills being the only team that plays in New York, how do you think that could affect the politics of relocation?
BP: "The NFL doesn't want to risk upsetting the political structure. The league is facing critical issues. They don't want to litigate these things.
"In many ways, they're like the old Mafia. They just want to make money and don't want to do anything that will disrupt that."
(Bernard Parks Jr. tells his father he might not want to use that choice of words.)
BP: "That's what it's like! The old Mafia was all about the money. Don't ruin a good thing."