African American Business Group Seeks To Buy Oakland Coliseum Site For NFL Franchise

A local business and investment group is looking to buy the city’s stake in the Coliseum site and build a new stadium to lure an NFL franchise, which would be the first in the league to be majority-owned by African Americans.

Oakland-based African American Sports and Entertainment Group (AASEG) is offering $92.5 million to buy Oakland’s portion of the Coliseum site.

The site is jointly owned by the city of Oakland and Alameda County. The Oakland A’s just purchased the other half from the county and are trying to buy the remaining half from Oakland.

The group’s chairman, Ray Bobbitt, said he’s been in talks with the A’s organization. He doesn’t see any conflict, even though both groups are going after the same piece of land.

“There’s no conflict. There’s no differences. We’re just trying to work together,” said Bobbitt.

He has also made a pitch to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell expressing AASEG’s interest in applying to own a team after the now-Las Vegas Raiders moved to Nevada when the franchise could not secure a new stadium in the Bay Area.

He said the league is talking to them and are asking for a more detailed proposal.

“They asked us specifically to put together a list of potential African American principal owners, which we have done,” said Bobbitt.

The group also includes Oakland construction developer Alan Dones, former Oakland city manager Robert Bobb, former NBA player and sports agent Bill Duffy and Loop Capital, the largest African American-owned investment firm in the U.S.

“With Oakland being such a unique place for social justice and one of the components being economic justice, equity and equality; this is something we are grateful to be an architect of,” said Bobbitt.

None of the 32 current NFL teams are owned by an African American while nearly 75 percent of the league’s players are Black.

With the departure of the Raiders and the Golden State Warriors, who played at the adjacent Oakland Arena before moving to San Francisco, the Oakland Athletics are the only team currently utilizing the Coliseum site.

The Indoor Football League’s Oakland Panthers were also scheduled to play their inaugural season at the Oakland Arena prior to the coronavirus pandemic, and will now prepare to debut during the 2022 season.

Aside from the land issues and potential conflicts with the A’s vision of the coliseum site, Chris Dobbins with Save Oakland Sports said money is the other major hurdle to get an expansion team.

“COVID is going to be a major issue. I don’t see [the NFL] expanding anything or anybody doing anything crazy with a lot of money because of that issue,” said Dobbins.

“The fluid that flows through the veins of all sports, especially the NFL, is green. And I did a quick look, the net asset value of the owners in the NFL as of today, depending on how the market did, is about $130 billion. Now, if you want to join that club, you’ve got to have plenty of B’s,” said former sports and business executive Andy Dolich with Dolich Consulting.

Bobbitt said he’s working to secure more people and money to turn his dream into reality.

Bobbitt also said he hopes that the group’s effort in the Bay Area can be expanded to other major metro areas, opening the door for multiple Black and African American owners of major sports franchises.

“We’re the AASEG Oakland but this could be AASEG Memphis, it could be AASEG Cleveland, it could be whatever scenario lends itself to urban centers that can create this economic opportunity,” he said.

Bobbitt did not give an estimated year for the team to debut in Oakland, with multiple steps still needed, potentially including accruing upwards of $1 billion in funding for the franchise.

On their current timeline, A’s officials have said they hope to move to the Howard Terminal site by the start of the 2023 MLB season.

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South Carolina Senate Debate Canceled After Lindsey Graham Refuses To Take COVID-19 Test

Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison declined to debate unless both candidates took a coronavirus test. GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham declined.

Friday’s debate between South Carolina’s U.S. Senate candidates was canceled after Republican incumbent Sen. Lindsey Graham declined to take a coronavirus test.

Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison asked that Graham take the test before their second debate after news broke that Graham had been in close proximity to Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who announced last week that he tested positive for the coronavirus.

Instead of a debate, the two candidates agreed to do separate televised interviews Friday night. Harrison’s spokesperson, Guy King, told The Greenville News that the campaign was “disappointed that Lindsey has failed to take a simple coronavirus test.” 

Graham’s campaign issued its own statement to the News, blaming Harrison, who they said “declined to participate in [the debate] at the last minute.”

In Friday night’s appearance on WLTX, Harrison lauded GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John Cornyn of Texas and Vice President Mike Pence for “being responsible” and getting tested for COVID-19. Graham, he said, “thinks he’s special enough that he can’t” get tested for the disease. 

Graham was one of several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who held a 90-minute hearing with Lee earlier this month. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), another member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also tested positive for the coronavirus.

More than a dozen people in President Donald Trump’s orbit have now tested positive for the coronavirus. 

At their first debate last week, Harrison brought his own plexiglass shield to protect himself from possible infection.

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Trump administration targets diversity hiring by contractors

US President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during a "Keep America Great" campaign rally at Wildwoods Convention Center in Wildwood, New Jersey, January 28, 2020.

American companies promising to hire more Black employees in leadership roles and teach their workforce about racism are getting a message from President Donald Trump’s administration: Watch your step if you want to keep doing business with the federal government.

Trump’s Labor Department is using a 55-year-old presidential order spurred by the Civil Rights Movement to scrutinize companies like Microsoft and Wells Fargo over their public commitments to diversity. Government letters sent last week warned both companies against using “discriminatory practices” to meet their goals.

Microsoft has brushed off the warnings, publicly disclosing the government inquiry and defending its plan to boost Black leadership.

But advocates for corporate diversity initiatives worry that more cautious executives will halt or scale back efforts to make their workplaces more inclusive out of fear that a wrong step could jeopardize lucrative public contracts. The agency has oversight over the hiring practices of thousands of federal contractors that employ roughly a quarter of all American workers.

“For tech companies that don’t care about these issues, the pronouncements are a dog whistle that they can carry on discriminating the way they already have,” said Laszlo Bock, an executive who ran Google’s human resources division for more than a decade and now leads software startup Humu.

Bock said those who do care, however, will see Trump's actions as political “sound and fury" that will be hard to enforce.

“It’s not at all illegal to strive to have a workforce that reflects the makeup of your nation,” Bock said.

Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1965 order was designed to “adjust the imbalances of hiring that are a legacy of our racist past,” said employment attorney and public contracting expert Daniel Abrahams.

“Trump is turning it around into an instrument of white grievances,” he added.

The president has also ordered the Labor Department to set up a new hotline to investigate complaints about anti-racism training sessions that Trump has called “anti-American” and “blame-focused.” The order signed last month calls attention to discussions of deep-seated racism and privilege that could make white workers feel “discomfort” or guilt.

Trade groups representing the tech and pharmaceutical industries are protesting Trump's new order, saying it would restrict free speech and interfere with private sector efforts to combat systemic racism.

Trump's executive order is a twist on Johnson’s 1965 directive and amendments that followed that set rules banning discriminatory practices at companies that contract with the federal government. It requires contractors to take “affirmative action” to open the doors to hiring minorities and women.

But the Labor Department is raising questions about the specificity of commitments made by executives addressing racial injustice in response to the wave of Black Lives Matter protests that followed May's police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in June that the tech company would double the number of Black and African American managers, senior individual contributors and senior leaders by 2025. Wells Fargo CEO Charles Scharf made a similar commitment in June to doubling Black leadership over the next five years.

Abrahams said he doubts that the Labor Department has much of a case against companies that are trying to boost diversity, though “there’s some discrimination against white people that’s probably actionable,” and courts have danced around the question of what happens when employers set “inflexible” targets for racial quotas.

But he said it’s more likely the Trump administration is using the move as a political tactic ahead of the presidential election. Trump has criticized workplace training that he says is based on critical race theory, or the idea that racism is systemic in the U.S.

Dozens of companies have ramped up their efforts to bring more Black and other minority employees into their ranks since the protests over Floyd’s death shook the country and triggered a national reckoning over racism. Many have announced initiatives specifically targeting the African American community.

The CEOs of the 27 largest employers in New York — including Amazon and J.P. Morgan — formed a coalition to recruit 100,000 people from low-income Black, Hispanic and Asian communities in the city by 2030. More than 40 companies have joined a pledge to add at least one Black member to their board of directors by 2021.

Several other top government contractors have set numeric goals for adding Black or Latino employees, including consulting firms Accenture and Deloitte.

Johnny Taylor, the CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, said he has asked for a conference with U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia to seek clarity about the intention of the inquiries.

“I want them to ensure the companies are complying with the law but that investigation doesn’t result in a chilling effect on diversity and inclusion programs,” said Taylor, whose organization represents 300,000 human resource professionals across the world.

Taylor said he believed the policies announced by Microsoft and Wells Fargo amounted to aspirational goals, rather than quotas based on race. But he said announcing numbers may have opened companies to discrimination complaints.

Companies can protect themselves against claims of discrimination by widening their applicant pool to ensure a large enough number of qualified minority candidates, said Mabel Abraham, an assistant professor of management at Columbia University. The challenge, she said, is that companies have to show they have measurable diversity goals to attract talented minority applicants in the first place.

“Companies that are going to get the applicants are the ones that actually have minorities in top roles and that are putting out messages of race and diversity,” she said. “It’s a chicken-and-egg problem.”

The latest actions affecting contractors align with a broader Trump administration trend on matters of race.

The Education Department last month opened an investigation into racial bias at Princeton University over the school’s recent acknowledgment of racism on campus, and on Thursday, the Justice Department sued Yale University, weeks after prosecutors found the university was illegally discriminating against Asian American and white applicants, in violation of federal civil rights law.

Trump’s newest executive order also applies to educational institutions that receive federal funding. At least one university, the University of Iowa, suspended its diversity efforts in response the order.

Liz Tovar, the university’s interim associate vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, said the decision was taken because of “the seriousness of the penalties for non-compliance with the order, which include the loss of federal funding.”

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The fine line Harris walked during the debate

In a vice presidential debate marked by at least some adherence to the rules, Sen. Kamala Harris found it necessary to ask Vice President Mike Pence not to interrupt her multiple times. She reminded him — sometimes with a hand up, crossing guard-style, other times with raised eyebrows — "Mr. Vice President, I'm speaking." At other moments as Pence spoke, Harris' face flashed a catalogue of looks in his direction that seemed to communicate irritation, disbelief and distaste all at once, the kind of repertoire developed when one often cannot say everything one thinks.

Throughout, Harris worked to claim, then hold, new ground.

Harris, a senator who was the first woman to serve as California's attorney general, is the first woman of color to run on a major party's presidential ticket and therefore the first to appear in a vice presidential debate. She arrived Wednesday with a complex set of challenges, expectations and demands. And, in a set of criteria identified by experts interviewed before the debate, she met them.

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From the moment Harris was named as Joe Biden's running mate, "Donald Trump got to work, pulling out the birtherism stuff, the tropes about angry Black women," said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. But Biden "acknowledged when he picked her that he is not the future of the Democratic Party," Walsh said.

"He acknowledged it's a woman, and a woman of color, and that sends a powerful message in some ways," she said. "Whether he wins or he loses, she is positioned now to be the first woman president of the United States."

This debate presented an opportunity for Harris to prove her mettle as the potential second-in-command to a 78-year-old president during a global pandemic. She needed to persuade groups of voters not particularly excited about Biden to attach themselves to the Biden-Harris ticket, prosecute her opponent and inspire America willing to accept a different model of leadership from what it is accustomed to. In other words, Harris, a woman with a professional résumé about as traditional as possible for a vice presidential candidate, faced all the ordinary and extraordinary pressure of Wednesday night's debate, along with the added labor of showing America that a woman of color can lead.

"There is no doubt that Harris is prepared," said Duchess Harris, a professor of American studies and political science at Macalester College in Minnesota who researches Black women in politics and is not related to the senator. "She has experienced misogynoir her entire adult life.

Kamala Harris' father is Jamaican, her mother is Indian, and her husband is Jewish, and Harris herself attended Howard University, one of the nation's most prestigious historically Black institutions. For many voters, the debate was an opportunity to learn more about Harris beyond those facts.

In the week before she became the Democratic vice presidential nominee and in the two weeks after, about 25 percent of media coverage of Harris mentioned and sometimes failed to label overtly racist or sexist tropes, according to an analysis released by TIME'S UP Now, an anti-sexual harassment organization. Researchers with TIME'S UP found that another 61 percent of coverage was not racist or sexist but focused on Harris' race and gender. Yet just 5 percent of stories published during the same time period in 2016 focused on the race or gender of the two white men seeking the vice presidency, Pence and Democrat Tim Kaine.

"What that tells us is we all normalize white men running," said Tina Tchen, president and CEO of TIME'S UP Now, who was Michelle Obama's chief of staff and an assistant to President Barack Obama. "We have normalized white male leadership and how we continue to find women of color leadership to be surprising. That and, if we are spending two-thirds of thetime talking about her race or gender, we are not talking about her record or what she has done, her positions, her accomplishments."

On Wednesday night, prompted by an initial question about a Biden-Harris administration's plan to address the pandemic, Harris put that experience to good use.

Harris looked directly at the camera and told viewers that the Trump administration had been informed in late January that the coronavirus could spread through airborne particles. The administration then "covered up" that truth, instead touting skepticism of critical protective measures as important as mask-wearing to appease Trump, she said. The Trump administration's response, Harris said, had left more than 210,000 people in the United States dead and more than 7 million infected. Because of all that, the administration had "forfeited" any right to re-election, Harris said in a tone used to acknowledge serious injury or pain. Biden, Harris said, had a plan for testing and vaccine distribution and universal, free access to them.

Unlike the contentious presidential debate characterized by voluminous cross-talk and name-calling last week, Harris and Pence sat 12 feet apart and clashed over the administration's handling of the pandemic, the economy and other policy issues.

Harris, the Macalester professor, had predicted that the senator would be "completely prepared," while Pence would be "dismissive." Though the tone of the debate was largely professional, Pence chided Harris' statements that she does not trust a coronavirus vaccine approved during a Trump administration as an unacceptable way "of playing politics with people's lives."

But that kind of lecturing stance from a self-assigned position of authority may also appeal to some voters in a country where, in 2018, more white men named John serve as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies than women. On this year’s list, none of the women CEOs are Black.

Pence delivered his barb in his usual, calm tone, with a furrowed brow and certitude, a living image akin to the faces on Mount Rushmore. But Pence, who leads the administration's coronavirus task force, also had the burden of explaining the administration's response to the pandemic, said Aimee Allison, founder and president of She the People, a national organization working to boost the political power of women of color.

Shortly following the debate, other Republican figures like Chuck Grassley said the winner of a debate is the person viewers would rather have dinner with, and Pence was the “most likable” between the two. Not to be outdone, however, Thursday morning Trump described Harris on Thursday morning as a “totally unlikeable” “monster.” The same critiques have followed professional women through careers, including politicians like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, and plenty others, undercutting their accomplishments with debates over their palatability in ways that their male counterparts generally don’t face.

While Harris' candidacy may register with some Americans as discomforting or too novel, she has the advantage of running with Biden after Obama broke barriers as the nation's first Black president and after Clinton became the first woman to lead a major party's ticket, Walsh said. That is an advantage neither Obama nor Clinton had.

Harris arrived Wednesday night, almost certainly aware of the traditions of Black women's public rhetoric: calm but confrontational, using challenging language to illuminate hypocrisy, failure and injustice, Duchess Harris said. That is in the tradition of Rep. Shirley Chisholm, a Black woman who ran for president in 1972, and Rep. Barbara Jordan of Texas, the first Black woman elected to Congress from a former Confederate state, who rose to national fame during the Watergate hearings.

"Setting aside race and gender, as if we can really do that," Allison said, "this is likely the American voters' only chance to hear about the issues. Trump and most of his distraction tactics will not be on that stage."

"The theme is Covid-19," Allison said, "but we women of color understand that it is also about access to the vote, pathological police brutality and access to health care. We understand that Trump just turned his back on people suffering in all sorts of ways, saying he is not going to consider any relief bill. And as 'SNL' made clear in their skit this weekend, I think a lot of people are expecting Kamala Harris to come in tonight and be the adult in the room."

On Wednesday, Harris' version of adulting included empathetic and detailed mentions of two dead young women: the aid worker Kayla Mueller, killed while being held as a captive of the Islamic State terrorist group in 2015, and Breonna Taylor, killed in a police raid on her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, this year.

One route through the tangled maze of demands Harris faced, Walsh said, was absolute authenticity. In 2018, female candidates found record election success in sharing more of their lives and family experiences, some of which included issues like domestic violence. Harris, a prosecutor and lawmaker, is also funny and capable of real warmth and compassion — as well as a zinger aimed at an opponent.

In a brief moment of levity while discussing the pandemic, Harris responded to debate moderator Susan Page's accidental reference to her as "Kamala Harris," rather than the more formal "Senator Harris." "That's all right," she said. "I'm Kamala."

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Republicans see 'grim' Senate map and edge away from Trump

Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, left, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., face off in a debate on Oct. 3. (Joshua Boucher/The State via AP [2])

Vulnerable Republicans are increasingly taking careful, but clear, steps to distance themselves from President Donald Trump, one sign of a new wave of GOP anxiety that the president's crisis-to-crisis reelection bid could bring down Senate candidates across the country.

In key races from Arizona to Texas, Kansas and Maine, Republican senators long afraid of the president’s power to strike back at his critics are starting to break with the president — particularly over his handling of the pandemic — in the final stretch of the election. GOP strategists say the distancing reflects a startling erosion of support over a brutal 10-day stretch for Trump, starting with his seething debate performance when he did not clearly denounce a white supremacist group through his hospitalization with COVID-19 and attempts to downplay the virus's danger.

Even the somewhat subtle moves away from Trump are notable. For years, Republican lawmakers have been loath to criticize the president — and have gone to great lengths to dodge questions — fearful of angering Trump supporters they need to win. But with control of the Senate in the balance, GOP lawmakers appear to be shifting quickly to do what’s necessary to save their seats.

“The Senate map is looking exceedingly grim,” said one major GOP donor, Dan Eberhart.

Republican prospects for holding its 53-47 majority have been darkening for months. But recent upheaval at the White House has accelerated the trend, according to conversations with a half-dozen GOP strategists and campaign advisers, some of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose internal deliberations.

The strategists noted the decision to rush to fill the Supreme Court vacancy with conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett has not swung voters toward the GOP as hoped. Several noted internal polls suggested Republican-leaning, undecided voters were particularly turned off by the president’s debate performance and his conduct since being diagnosed with the coronavirus. It wasn’t clear that these voters would cast a ballot for Democrat Joe Biden, but they might stay home out of what one strategist described as a feeling of Trump fatigue.

Public polling shows Trump trailing Biden nationally but typically by smaller numbers in key battleground states.

“I think a lot of Republicans are worried that this is a jailbreak moment, and people who have been sitting on the fence looking for a rationale to stick with the president are instead abandoning the ship,” said Rory Cooper, a Republican strategist and frequent Trump critic.

To be sure, Trump has a history of political resilience. Wednesday marked the four year anniversary of the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump boasted of sexually assaulting women. Republicans quickly abandoned him then, and his poll numbers sunk, but he still won weeks later.

Trump's behavior this week hasn't prompted that sort of GOP rebuke. But Republicans expressed clear frustration with Trump’s erratic approach to negotiations on a stimulus bill aimed at mitigating the economic toll of the pandemic. Trump abruptly called off talks, then tried to restart them Wednesday, causing the stock market to plummet and then somewhat recover.

On Monday, as he returned from the hospital, a still-contagious Trump paused for a photo op at the White House, removed his mask and later tweeted that people should not fear the virus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans.

“I couldn’t help but think that sent the wrong signal,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, whose tight race is among a handful that could cost Republicans control of the Senate. “I did not think that it set a good example at all.”

Collins began airing an ad this week that urges voters to vote for her “no matter who you’re voting for for president."

PHOTO: Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) speaks during a Senate Armed Subcommittee hearing on preventing sexual assault where she spoke about her experience of being sexually assaulted in the military on Capitol Hill, March 6, 2019.

In Arizona, another endangered Republican, Sen. Martha McSally, struggled when asked whether she was proud to serve under the president during her Air Force career.

“I’m proud that I’m fighting for Arizonans on things like cutting your taxes,” McSally replied during a debate against Mark Kelly, one of multiple Democrats who have bested their Republican incumbents in fundraising.

Democrats have long considered Maine and Arizona, along with Colorado and North Carolina, top targets in their effort to gain the four seats they need to win Senate control. (It's only three if Biden wins the White House.) But the race for Senate majority has been widening into reliably Republican states, now including Iowa, Alaska, Kansas and Montana. In North Carolina, meanwhile, Democrat Cal Cunningham's recent sexting scandal has complicated his drive against Republican incumbent Thom Tillis.

Even South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally, is suddenly scrambling.

Trump won the state by 14 percentage points in 2016. Still, a major Republican political committee aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell began spending nearly $10 million on TV and radio ads this week attacking Graham's Democratic opponent, Jaime Harrison.

Donors have not given up on trying to hold the Senate. As Trump’s fundraising has plateaued in recent months, it has spiked for Republican outside groups that are supporting House and Senate candidates.

The massive influx of new money for House and Senate committee will enable them to flood competitive races with advertising that embraces conventional Republican themes. (The South Carolina TV ad by the Senate Leadership Fund shows pictures of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and says, “Liberal Jaime Harrison is their guy, not ours.”)

The intention is to extend a lifeline to candidates who otherwise would have relied on the president’s political operation for support, according to two Republican strategists with direct knowledge of the House and Senate campaign plans.

Still, there's little doubt Republican senators' fortunes are linked to the president and his volatile political instincts. In the highly partisan environment, ticket-splitting — voting for one party for president and another for Senate, say — has become increasingly rare. In 2016, Republican Senate candidates lost in every state Trump lost and won where Trump won.

One GOP adviser said most Republican candidates are not running ahead of Trump in polling their states. And when his support drops, their support usually does, too.

Even in red states, Republicans are starting to make clear they aren't following Trump when it comes to the pandemic.

Sen. John Cornyn told the Houston Chronicle editorial board on Monday that Trump “let his guard down" and said his diagnosis should be a reminder to "exercise self-discipline.”

In another GOP bastion, Republican Senate nominee Roger Marshall borrowed Trump's slogan for a “Keep Kansas Great” bus tour on Tuesday, but not his health advice.

“Of course, I think everyone should respect the virus,” said Marshall, a doctor. “I’m really encouraging everyone to wear a mask when they can, to keep their physical distance, wash their hands, all those types of things.”

Marshall was quickly reminded of his party's competing forces. As he spoke, he was briefly interrupted by a woman who appeared to be a opponent of wearing masks, yelling, “Stop telling people that!”

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