THE BLOG
09/16/2014 01:55 pm ET Updated Nov 16, 2014

In the Intersection of Race, Sports and Money, Money Speaks Louder Than Race

Jeff Gross via Getty Images

The 49ers christened the $1.3 billion Levi's Stadium Sunday night and Ray McDonald, who was arrested over the Labor Day weekend on suspicion of domestic abuse against his pregnant fiancé, was in the starting lineup. Never mind a slew of domestic violence cases permeating the NFL, calls for Roger Goodell's job, and threats that the public would bench America's favorite pastime. Goodell was conspicuously absent despite the hoopla and despite the matchup of two classic NFL franchises.

When he took the helm as the most powerful man in America's most powerful sport, Goodell promoted approachability, transparency and discipline. Eight years later, the man who pocketed $44.2 million in salary and other benefits in 2013 according to tax filings, is under fire for his judgment and ability to perform his job as the "Enforcer." Goodell's claim that neither he nor anyone else in the NFL office had any knowledge of the TMZ-released Ray Rice video takes plausible deniability to a whole new level. Never mind that the police report said within it that Rice had struck Janay Palmer "rendering her unconscious."

The NFL has hired former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III to investigate its own pursuit and handling of evidence after a report that a league executive received videotape evidence five months before it became public, and the league's ability to control the message and manipulate the media will face its stiffest challenge under Goodell's leadership.

While the NFL's handling of domestic abuse cases is being scrutinized, and folk are calling for Goodell's job, the league's inquiry skills concerning other sensitive matters is also worthy of further review.

A year ago, civil rights organizations petitioned the NFL to review the virtual exclusion of minority-owned businesses from contracting opportunities on the $1.3 billion Levi's Stadium. The next generation stadium was financed in part by a $250 million loan by the NFL to the 49ers. Despite heavy media coverage the NFL failed to investigate or respond to the organizations who reached out to the NFL for help.

Public money was also used to finance the stadium and the majority of Santa Clara County's population is minority. The 49ers roster is over 80 percent Black. The 49ers boast a "longstanding and unwavering commitment to diversity." Turner Construction boasts a goal of 20 percent minority participation on its projects.

According to the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, minority-owned businesses were virtually excluded from contracting opportunities through a process reminiscent of the "good old boys network." Approximately $30 million or less than 2 percent of the construction budget was ultimately awarded to minority-owned businesses. Turner Construction claimed that their in-house program was "stymied" by Proposition 209, a law that does not apply to either the 49ers or Turner. And not a single word from Goodell or the NFL despite calls for intervention.

The failure to engage minority-owned businesses, despite local studies that documented high rates of minority-owned business availability in Northern California, resulted in nearly $200 million in lost contracting opportunities based on Turner's in-house program. The apparent attitude of Turner -- "if we're not specifically required to reach out to minority, we're not going to" -- is problematic from a public-policy perspective and, according to the LCCR, a potential violation of California's anti-discrimination laws. In the middle of the 49ers project, and not long before the NBA banned Donald Sterling for comments "contrary to principles of inclusion and respect" and Bruce Levenson agreed to sell his interest in the NBA's Hawks because of a racially inflammatory email, the NBA's new owners of the Kings franchise selected Turner to build their $448 million new home.

The conversation needs to include a discussion of how Goodell, the NFL and the 49ers ignored a situation at least as troublesome as the Ray Rice situation. Also astonishing is that it seems the American public, including Black journalists and leaders in the Black community, are more concerned about the Ray Rice situation than the widespread inequities in the world of professional sports.