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COVID Politics Ensnare California Super Bowl

An interior view of the football field at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. A large, ring-shaped video display board hangs from the roof of the stadium, displaying messages saying the stadium will host Super Bowl 56 on Feb. 13, 2022. Workers on seen preparing the field.
SoFi Stadium will be the site of Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, 2022.
(Sharon McNary
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The forecast for Super Bowl Sunday in Inglewood, Los Angeles County: unseasonably warm, with a chance of political controversy.

First, there was this week’s warning from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that truck drivers protesting vaccine mandates may seek to snarl Super Bowl traffic or to impede security operations — actions apparently inspired by trucker demonstrations blockading parts of the U.S.-Canada border.

Then, there are questions about who will benefit from a game expected to draw more than 100,000 visitors to a new $5 billion stadium built in a city that for years was so financially strapped it struggled to provide basic services to residents, most of whom are people of color.

  • In a Thursday poll from the Los Angeles Times and SurveyMonkey, 59% of Los Angeles-area residents said that they think large corporations and the wealthy benefit most from big events like the Super Bowl and Olympics, compared to 35% who said the same for local businesses and average residents.
  • Bellflower resident Dollie Lee: “Imagine investing $5,000” — the price of some of the cheapest Super Bowl tickets available Wednesday morning — “per student in arts or reading or after-school activities … I just want to see where the tax dollars and revenue from this go.”

And then there are the optics of the Super Bowl itself: tens of thousands of people crowding into SoFi Stadium — albeit with strict vaccine-or-testing and masking rules — in the middle of a pandemic.

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Republican lawmakers seized — quite literally — on this image Thursday, when many showed up at the state Capitol in Sacramento wearing face masks emblazoned with the now-infamous photo of Gov. Gavin Newsom posing maskless with Magic Johnson at last month’s NFC Championship game, also at SoFi Stadium.

Their goal: Force a vote on ending California’s pandemic state of emergency — which would also terminate Newsom’s emergency powers. However, Democratic legislators voted against weighing in on proposals to do so.

  • Assemblymember Kevin Kiley, a Rocklin Republican and one of the proposal’s co-authors: “California is hosting the actual Super Bowl during a state of emergency. It is time to end the absurdity and let the people of California get back to their lives.”

Newsom, who on Thursday signed into law a $1.9 billion emergency COVID package, slammed the effort from Kiley and co-author Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher of Yuba City.

  • Newsom’s office: “Apparently, Asm. Kiley and Asm. Gallagher believe it would have been better to let Californians die and be turned away from care when hospitals reached capacity during the omicron surge.”
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