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Super Bowl LVI Will Not Benefit Working-Class Angelenos

Here are 5 Super Bowl myths we need to squash.

SoFi Stadium Monitors
Screen time in SoFi stadium. (Photo: Alisanne Meyers)

It’s that time of year again. Elites hoping to boost their careers and fatten their wallets have teamed up to bring us yet another Super Bowl, this time in Inglewood and Los Angeles. In an attempt to portray their motives as altruistic, these Super Bowl boosters have been pumping a number of myths out of their PR machines about how the event will benefit LA. But to be clear: Super Bowl LVI will harm working-class Angelenos.

Let’s break down some of the biggest myths:

The Super Bowl is good for local Inglewood residents!

No. The Super Bowl will be held at SoFi stadium, where the LA Rams have played since the fall of 2020. The surrounding area has been rapidly gentrifying since construction began on the world’s most expensive stadium. Landlords took advantage of the absence of rent control in Inglewood before 2019 to jack up the rents and push out long-time, low-income, mostly Black and Latinx residents. Even since rent control went into effect, some landlords have refused to make repairs and have waged harassment campaigns in attempts to drive out more low-income tenants so they can then remodel the units for wealthier renters. 

You may have seen Airbnb ramping up their marketing around the Super Bowl. In order to take advantage of tourists and attendees, some property owners have pressured tenants out to make way for Airbnbs. Because Inglewood has no restrictions on short-term rentals, this practice flies under the radar of local elected officials. Major events like the Super Bowl offer landlords that extra incentive to prioritize profit over people. 

Unhoused Inglewood residents are being displaced too. On January 24 and 25, Caltrans forced out a roadside encampment community that likely would have been visible to visitors traveling to SoFi Stadium from LAX. In contrast to the denials of Caltrans management and Mayor Butts, workers on the ground told reporters and mutual aid volunteers that the Super Bowl was the reason for the sweep. Those who were displaced said they were not offered housing and had nowhere to go, with several having to relocate to nearby (more secluded) streets in the days after. They also reported that Caltrans workers told them to move west rather than east — away from the stadium. In addition to this high-profile sweep, community organizers have observed and recorded an uptick and intensification in sweeps across Inglewood in recent months.

As we write this article, the average price people are paying for tickets is $10,427. And prices “could go up in the coming days.” With the cheapest tickets now coming in at a whopping $7,000, the majority of Inglewood and LA residents have the extra pain of knowing this event is not for them. 

The Super Bowl is generating lots of money for LA and Inglewood!

No. The claim that Super Bowls generate hundreds of millions of dollars has been squashed by economists (that is, economists who are not paid by Super Bowl organizers) so many times that this myth shouldn’t have legs left to stand on. And yet, almost every major LA-based news publication has now covered the bogus “study” that predicted Super Bowl LVI will generate $234–$477 million for Los Angeles. This study was conducted by Micronomics Economics Research and Consulting and commissioned by the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission, which postures as a nonprofit organization but is a clique of LA elites who stand to profit from mega-events. The study replicates almost all the well-debunked pitfalls of predictive studies from other host cities. Notably:

  • It ignores the high level of tourism activity that already occurs in LA without the Super Bowl, and doesn’t subtract this baseline level from the amount it claims is “generated” by the event. In other words, it gives the Super Bowl credit for what is already happening in Los Angeles on a regular basis.
  • It uses the same assumptions and figures employed in prior now-debunked studies — studies that led economist Robert Baade to say that you could “move the decimal point one place to the left” (which would mean $23-48 million for Super Bowl LVI) and the figure would still be a “generous appraisal of what the Super Bowl generates.” 
  • Only a fraction of the amount “generated” goes to cities’ coffers in the form of taxes, and once we use a more realistic estimate for the total, that fraction can be cancelled out by what the host city spends on security, sanitation, and transportation. Micronomics’ report conveniently ignores how much Inglewood and LA will spend. 
  • The report downplays that a large chunk of the amount “generated” is money made by massive corporations that take their profits out of LA — hotel chains, restaurant chains, tourism and hospitality companies, and the NFL and its media and marketing partners. The fact that many Super Bowl tickets were sold as part of tour packages costing at least $6,000 reinforces the fact that the money tourists spend in LA is going to a carefully curated list of already-very-wealthy business partners.

Back in 2014, a New York Times analysis concluded: “Whatever the overall gains, they are concentrated among a few beneficiaries — like hotels or, most obviously, the NFL itself, which has been given a gigantic stage upon which to project lucrative ads and sell the commemorative paraphernalia it licenses. In other words, the sporting event represents a huge transfer of funds from taxpayers to a handful of special interests.”

Okay, but isn’t the Super Bowl good for local businesses, too? Won’t it generate tons of jobs?

Nope! Hilariously, the same Micronomics report doesn’t even pretend to explain how it concocted its predictions of 2,200–4,700 new jobs in the LA region. It does acknowledge that its jobs estimate includes part-time and seasonal jobs. This fits a trend of mega-event organizers promising a legacy of jobs only to deliver a smaller number of unstable, underpaid gigs. (The Super Bowl itself is skimping on paying for labor, too. Halftime show performers are going unpaid for gigs that require 72 hours of rehearsal time.)

Some local businesses in Inglewood may turn a nice profit over Super Bowl weekend. But mega-event research suggests local small businesses can just as — if not more — easily lose out. Some may temporarily lose regular customers who stay away from the Super Bowl madness. Others may invest in their operations ahead of the event because they expect a windfall, only to learn too late that visitors are being corralled on routes that bypass their location, or encouraged to spend at sponsored locations rather than perusing local options. Promises to connect local businesses with corporate sponsors have also been known to fall short.

Look no further than LA’s own history for an example: of 23 minority-owned businesses that became registered licensees for the 1984 Games through a city-sponsored program, by 1985 at least 14 found themselves in financial distress. Some even faced bankruptcy — 12 of these businesses filed a lawsuit claiming the Olympic Organizing Committee had reneged on its agreement and was culpable for their losses.

So when today’s boosters tout Super Bowl LVI’s “Business Connect” program, we can’t take it for granted that this program is a real boon for the community. We can be assured, though, that it’s a convenient PR narrative for the corporate execs who will take home the big bucks. 

Holding a safe Super Bowl requires lots of police!

No! Police don’t keep people safe. They put Black, brown, Indigenous, immigrant, unhoused, poor, queer, and disabled folks at more risk. This has been well established. For a refresher, check out our Pick A Side website. 

With its Special Event Assessment Rating (SEAR-1) designation, Super Bowl LVI is an excuse for Customs and Border Protection, ICE, the Secret Service, the FBI, and other federal and state-level security agencies to join LAPD and LASD in a spectacular performance of security theater in Los Angeles. As with all Super Bowls, the specter of “terrorism” will be deployed to justify crackdowns on anyone who is racialized as a “threat.” In particular, Border Patrol has a record of raiding transit hubs in host cities and arresting people of color who can’t provide documentation on demand. The NSSE designation prompted ICE’s arrest of rapper 21 Savage ahead of the 2019 Atlanta Super Bowl. Moreover, mega-events are used as laboratories to deploy new invasive surveillance technologies that can later be expanded to wider contexts. 

Money invested in this massive security operation could have been invested in other things that actually lead to community safety, including public housing, healthcare, food, and other basic human needs. 

We need more police at the Super Bowl because the Super Bowl increases sex trafficking!

There is little evidence to support rumors that sex trafficking spikes with major events like the Super Bowl. Nonetheless, these rumors continue to fuel investment in police programs that claim to combat sex trafficking. As the Stop the Raids coalition writes, these rumors are “great for funding, excusing stings, and political back-patting.” The reality is that police are infinitely more likely to arrest someone for solicitation, resulting in fines, legal fees, jail time and lost revenue, than save someone from a sex trafficker. Instead of working to create a system where workers own and control their own labor, some nonprofits and many elected officials conflate sex work and sex trafficking, creating a situation in which they feel compelled to “rescue” people just trying to do their job. 

Sensationalist headlines regarding human trafficking statistics should be challenged, as they are frequently exaggerated and used as an excuse to further criminlize vulnerable groups. We’re already seeing this myth machine at work in LA, from county supervisors, the Los Angeles Police Commission, and even Airbnb. Fortunately, the Stop the Raid coalition has compiled extensive resources countering these myths and will hold a Sex Worker Rights Symposium on February 9, alongside a bail-out campaign for sex workers arrested in stings. 
In conclusion: Fuck the Super Bowl. Fuck the Olympics. We want a city that serves working-class Angelenos — not a city for sale to investors and tourists.

Correction 2/13/2022: The article previously listed the Super Bowl as having National Special Security Event (NSSE) designation; the event has Special Event Assessment Rating (SEAR-1) designation.