A jogger in Darby Park running past the rooftops of Inglewood and SoFi Stadium.Credit…AJ Mast for The New York Times
The Super Bowl is never just a football game. But the nation’s biggest annual sporting event, which is set to take place on Sunday at the futuristic SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, has taken on extra significance this year.
There’s the fact that the Los Angeles Rams will be just the second team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium, which players hope will give them an edge over the Cincinnati Bengals. (The first was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who won the title last year.)
The event is also serving as a kind of showcase for the new stadium — a mammoth architectural and construction feat — as well as a nail-biting test of the durability of Covid-19’s downward trajectory.
But above all, the event will shine a spotlight on a transformed Inglewood, where the development of the stadium and the area around it serves as a lightning rod for broader debates about gentrification.
For many, the opening of the stadium was an achievement, a testament to the richness of the Black enclaves surrounding it that too long suffered from disinvestment and neglect.
“Most people treat the stadium and the Super Bowl as a singular event that burst out like a supernova,” Mayor James T. Butts of Inglewood told my colleague Tim Arango. “It was the culmination of our plan to change the opportunities both socially, culturally, recreationally for your children, to improve our infrastructure.”
The halftime show featuring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar — all central figures in the West Coast rap firmament — is meant to serve as a celebration of the region’s status as a producer of culture-defining artists.
For others, though, the gleaming structure and the event itself inspire ambivalence at best.
“It’s the same dynamic, the same tension that’s always existed,” Erin Aubry Kaplan, a writer and Inglewood resident, told Tim. “The cultural heroes are Black. But the reality on the ground is really different.”
There’s the traffic and the noise. And there’s the sense that the glitz isn’t meant for the people — mostly Black and Latino — who have made communities in Inglewood, Compton, Baldwin Hills, Leimert Park and more.
Representative Karen Bass, who started her career as a physician assistant and community organizer in South Los Angeles during the 1990s, and who is now running for mayor of Los Angeles, told me that excitement about the Super Bowl and efforts to combat gentrification don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
“We have to learn how to have both: to have beautiful venues and places people can afford to live,” she said.
What about the pandemic?
Although state public health officials recently announced that they’d let the statewide indoor mask mandate expire next week, the Super Bowl will take place under the current regulations.
In Los Angeles County, that means visitors going to indoor bars and clubs will have to show proof that they’ve been vaccinated and wear masks when they’re not eating or drinking. In the city of Los Angeles, rules are even more stringent: Restaurants and many other indoor businesses must also ask indoor diners for proof of vaccination.
Anyone age 5 or older who attends the game itself at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood will have to show proof that they’ve been vaccinated or negative test results. They will also be required to wear masks when they’re not eating or drinking, regardless of vaccination status.
Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County’s public health director, told me that although upticks in cases have followed big celebrations in the past, the county is in a significantly better position now.
Testing is much more widely available, including rapid antigen tests, which public health agencies will be distributing throughout Los Angeles over the weekend. There is the protection of vaccines.
“We’re in a much better place,” she said.
The N.F.L. is trying to expand its media footprint in Los Angeles, with a glitzy new office yards from the stadium.
This Super Bowl could be the hottest one yet, The Washington Post reports.
Federal officials said a trucker protest could disrupt the festivities.
Dancers complete the halftime show. But they’re consistently undervalued — and this year is no different, writes Gia Kourlas, The New York Times’s dance critic.
Snoop Dogg this week announced he had acquired Death Row Records, the label that gave him his start, from a group controlled by an investment firm, Variety reports.
A food writer for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the newspaper of the Rams’ former hometown, tried to insult Los Angeles’s food. It went about as well you’d expect.
Find all of The Times’s Super Bowl coverage here.
If you read one story, make it this
Many states — including deeply liberal ones, like California, where officials haven’t hesitated to impose restrictions to prevent coronavirus transmission — are lifting their indoor mask mandates. Some Americans cheered the moves. But not everyone.
The rest of the news
Tesla lawsuit: A California state agency is suing Tesla, accusing it of allowing racial discrimination and harassment to flourish at its Fremont factory.
Wolf protection: Gray wolves will regain federal protection across most of the lower 48 states, including California, where the population is starting to rebound.
State highways: In an effort to cut emissions from cars, California plans to prioritize fixing existing highways rather than building new ones.
Laguna Beach fire: A wildfire fueled by Santa Ana winds forced residents of one of Southern California’s wealthiest beachfront enclaves to evacuate, The Associated Press reports.
Prosecutor fired: Ebrahim Baytieh, a California prosecutor who is campaigning to become a judge, has been fired for withholding evidence in a murder case, The Associated Press reports.
Pain research: The N.F.L. is giving the University of California, San Diego, $500,000 to study whether cannabis can help athletes manage pain, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Dorm fire: An electrical fire in a California Polytechnic State University dorm injured one student and displaced about 60 others, The Associated Press reports.
Immigrants transferred to ICE: Central San Joaquin Valley sheriffs have transferred more than 1,000 immigrants to federal agents despite a state law prohibiting such actions, The Fresno Bee reports.
Lost satellites: Four NASA-funded satellites were lost on their way to space on Thursday after launching atop a rocket built by Alameda-based start-up Astra Space.
Market power lawsuit: Three million plaintiffs are seeking $1.2 billion from Sutter Health, claiming that the firm used its market power to overcharge for inpatient services, The Associated Press reports.
Shasta County recall election: Voters in Shasta County are replacing the chairman of its Board of Supervisors with a more conservative candidate, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.
What we’re eating
A twist on potato leek soup.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s travel tip comes from Duncan Barr, who recommends Mount Shasta:
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
With Valentine’s Day coming up, we’re asking about love: not who you love, but what you love about your corner of California.
Email us a love letter to your California city, neighborhood or region — or to the Golden State as a whole — and we may share it in an upcoming newsletter. You can reach the team at [email protected].
And before you go, some good news
If you’re fortunate enough to have enduring long-distance friendships, you know how hard it was to be separated from your friends for years during the pandemic. But vaccines have made weekend getaways possible again, and the reunions have been sweet.
The poet Ada Limón wrote about the feeling of meeting her two best friends for laughter, tears and local wine in Sonoma for Condé Nast Traveler. (A Super Bowl story this is most certainly not.)
Thanks for reading. We’ll be back on Monday.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Gets exactly right (5 letters).
Tim Arango, Soumya Karlamangla, Miles McKinley, Jonah Candelario and Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].