It’s official. St. Louis has landed an MLS franchise and the sport with a storied history here will return on a national level in 2022.
The celebration at The Palladium in the Lafayette Square neighborhood on Tuesday was about the expansion franchise. However, much of the message centered less on the game and more on what a new stadium, the team and ownership group can do to unite the region – especially the city.
Carolyn Kindle-Betz, leader of the ownership group and president of Enterprise Holdings Foundation, called the coming team and stadium “transformational for downtown St. Louis.”
As the first female majority owner in MLS history, Kindle-Betz promised the team will “bring together many segments of the city.”
“This is an important part of the city’s growth and it will continue to add to the positive momentum in the city.”
She is joined in the ownership group by six other female members of the Taylor family and Jim Kavanaugh, CEO of World Wide Technology.
According to a MLS4TheLou press release, stadium construction will create 500 jobs and 450 people will be employed permanently “working directly or indirectly with the club.”
As for the franchise meeting city MBE and WBE requirements, the release said the ownership group will “take the city’s workforce goals very seriously and will make it a priority to meet those goals as best we can, which will include local minority- and women-owned business on the project.”
The owners will also “strongly support hiring city residents and will work with contractors to meet all workforce goals.”
The owners have committed $100,000 to be shared equally by the Mathews-Dickey Boys and Girls Club and St. Louis Public Schools to enhance their respective soccer programs. Kindle-Betz said support for them, and other youth organizations will continue.
Lewis Reed, president of the city Board of Aldermen, said opportunities for youths in the city to become involved in soccer can fill idle hours when many run afoul of the law.
The stadium construction on the city’s west side and new jobs once it opens will “create more economic opportunity and help lift people out of poverty,” Reed said.
“This is a major deal for the city and a major deal for the state,” he added.
Kindle-Betz said the goal of the team is to do more than win.
“We want to bring in more tourist revenue (and) create more jobs,” she said.
Mayor Lyda Krewson said the new franchise “is a huge win for the city we all love.”
“It is a testament to the progress we are making.”
A standing room-only crowed greeted Kindle-Betz and other officials, and she said, “this excitement is what kept us motivated and focused.”
Upon officially announcing St. Louis as the 28th MLS franchise, Commissioner Don Garber said, “this is a city that can support three professional franchises.”
“This is a really powerful moment for MLS,” he said.
What you talkin’ about Jay-Z?
How strange are the times we live in.
President Trump said something more digestible about quarterback Colin Kaepernick than entertainment entrepreneur Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter last week.
A day before the NFL announced its deal with Carter’s Roc Nation to serves as the league’s “live music entertainment strategist,” and to assist with its social justice platform, Trump was asked outside the White House if he thought a team should sign the blackballed quarterback.
“Only if he’s good enough,” Trump said.
“If he was good enough, they’d hire him. Why wouldn’t he play if he was good enough?
After bragging about knowing New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and other owners, Trump added, “I’d like to see it. Frankly, I’d love to see Kaepernick come in, if he’s good enough. But I don’t want to see him come in because somebody thinks it’s a good PR move.”
Granted, Trump just paraded a tired argument that Kaepernick has never returned to the NFL because he is no longer talented enough. He was, is and shall be better than many quarterbacks employed by the NFL for several years.
Esquire writer Michael Arceneaux called it “selective ignorance,” when the president ignored (or is unaware of) the NFL settling a lawsuit with Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers defensive back Eric Reid after it was accused of collusion.
Yet Trump’s statement was brilliant compared to Carter’s reply when asked about Kaepernick’s status and players kneeling during the national anthem.
"I think we've moved past kneeling,” he said.
“There’s two parts of protest: the protest, and then there’s a company or individual saying ‘I hear you, what do we do next?’ For me it’s about actionable items, what are we gonna do about it? We get stuck on Colin not having a job, you know what I’m saying? And this is more than that.”
Carter said this with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell standing next to him at the Roc Nation offices in New York and he did so with another story percolating that he may soon gain minority ownership of an NFL franchise.
Reid, who continues to kneel during the anthem before every game, immediately ripped into Carter’s foolish talk and his crass opportunism.
“For one, when has Jay-Z ever taken a knee to come out and tell us that we're past kneeling? Yes, he's done a lot of great work, a lot of great social justice work,” Reid said.
"But for you to get paid to go into an NFL press conference and say that we're past kneeling? Again, asinine. Players Coalition 2.0, he got paid to take the bullets he's taking now because we're not having it.
“Jay-Z is doing the work for them. We all know that it's unjust that Colin isn't in an NFL locker room, the way he lost his job. But they get to pretend they care about social justice."
Miami Dolphins receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson also kneel before games, and Kaepernick said via Twitter they and Reid are heroes.
“Continue to fight for the people, even in the face of death threats. They have never moved past the people and continue to put their beliefs into action. Stay strong Brothers!!!” Kaepernick wrote.
Stills also chastised Carter, saying “He’s talking about, ‘We’re moving past kneeling,’ like he ever protested.
“He’s not an NFL player. He’s never been on a knee. ... To say that we’re moving past something, it didn’t seem very informed.
“(The NFL has) done a good job shifting the problem to Roc Nation/Shawn Carter's shoulders. I'm going to try to give this man the benefit of the doubt for now, but it doesn't sit right with me. It's not something I agree with or respect.”
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who funds a not-for-profit devoted to social justice issues, held a private fundraiser for the president at his home earlier this month. Stills called him out for the hypocrisy.
“Someone has to have enough courage to let him know he can’t play both sides of this,” Stills said following the Dolphins first preseason game.
“It’s something that I can look back on and say I made the right decision. … If you’re going to associate yourself with bad people, then people are going to know about it. I put it out there for everybody to see it. If you say you’re going to be about something, let’s be about it.”
Stills said on Twitter he is ending relationship with the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) because “You can’t have a nonprofit with this mission statement then open your doors to Trump.”
Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Malcolm Jenkins, who has blasted Trump in the past and said Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has a slave-owner mentality, defended Carter’s deal with the NFL.
“To sit across from billionaires and sit and talk about why they should be important is what the NFL should be highlighting,” Jenkins told reporters.
“Somebody like Jay-Z who can add to that conversation and does things, on a daily basis, and has a history of doing those things helps us as players. To have an ally like that, I’m looking forward to seeing what that turns into.”
After praising Carter for his social justice and equality work in the past Arceneaux ended his Esquire article with a warning.
“Jay-Z’s choice to collaborate with the NFL is wrong. If the NFL intends to continue blackballing Kaepernick for his advocacy, nothing they do in the name of "social justice" will be an act of contrition over his unjust treatment,” he wrote.
“In 2017, when Jay-Z wore a team-less Kaepernick jersey on Saturday Night Live, he seemed to have an understanding of that. Here's hoping in hindsight that wasn't just a bargaining chip from a shrewd businessman.”
Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.” Find him on Twitter at @aareid1.