Sports conglomerate AEG has pursued the construction of an NFL stadium in Los Angeles for over a decade, and it has become clear that they'll resort to a hilariously deplorable campaign of dirty tricks to ensure that a competitor's stadium doesn't get built.
A week ago the Chargers and Raiders released a statement outlining a plan to jointly build a stadium in Carson (Calif.) if their respective negotiations with the cities of Oakland and San Diego for new stadiums fall through. This spurred the City Council of Inglewood (Calif.) to approve the construction of a football stadium for the Rams in such a way that fast tracks it by not allowing the public to vote on the proposal.
But AEG—who wants to build Farmers Field next to the Staples Center in downtown LA—isn't going down without a fight. The Los Angeles Times has obtained a December report AEG commissioned former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge to write, and it's a doozy. In the report, Ridge claims that the Inglewood stadium site presents a major terrorist threat, suggesting that its close proximity to LAX gives terrorists a unique target for a "twofer":
Effective risk management is about limiting exposure as much as possible. Placing an NFL stadium in the operational space of another well-known target, layers additional safety and security risks, materially increases the risk of a terrorist event "twofer", and increases the likelihood that an incident involving one facility will adversely impact the other.
As the LA Times notes, the entire report is patently absurd. For one, the Federal Aviation Authority "has twice given its blessing to proposed stadiums in Inglewood" in environmental impact reports. There are also numerous NFL stadiums—like the recently built Levi's Field in Santa Clara (Calif.) and MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford (NJ)—that are very close to major airports, not to mention that downtown LA in general—especially if AEG's proposed Farmers Field was built right next to the Staples Center—is a pretty tempting terrorist target as well.
The 15-page report (which you can review in full right here) is an incredible read, full of scary and baseless predictions from a supposed expert on terrorism without an iota of data to support its conclusions. Paragraph after paragraph of shit is thrown against the wall, with Ridge and AEG hopeful that invoking words like "terror" and "Al-Qaeda" alone will be enough to stop the Inglewood project.
For instance, there is a seemingly random paragraph about the missing Malaysian airliner:
Finally, the yet unresolved disappearance of a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft on March 8, 2014 with 227 passengers onboard (MH370) has raised questions about possible air crew involvement and is a stark reminder that insider aviation threats must be seriously considered.
Ridge also raises the spectre of "dispersed Libyan arms," the small weapons in Ukraine, and rocket fire into Israel in an attempt to bolster his argument:
These are not just resurrected post-9/11 scenarios. The location of dispersed Libyan arms in the post-2011 revolution timeframe, for example, remains a credible threat to both commercial and military aviation interests around the world. And, the effect of small weapons of this kind has certainly been made clear in the Ukraine this summer.
Rocket fire has been one of the most commonly utilized weapons observed in the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza. With rockets falling as close as one mile to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, on July 22, 2014, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) temporarily cancelled flights by American carriers into Israel. Other countries took similar action.
Ridge's logic is asinine. Airplanes and airports are already considered likely sites of terrorist activity, and federal, state, and local authorities expend a significant amount of resources to protect them. But now, if the Inglewood stadium is built, terrorists are going to try and pick off a flight landing or departing from LAX so that it redirects into it after getting hit, causing even more destruction?
Campaigns for multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects are always waged with a certain amount of unscrupulous activity—Rams owner Stan Kroenke has just so happened to have donated thousands of dollars to the political campaigns of Inglewood officials—but this is a particularly shameful attempt by AEG.
It is even worse behavior by Tom Ridge. This is a man who, in the dark days after September 11th, was entrusted with protecting the country against terrorism. Among a cabal of disgraced former Bush security officials, Ridge was one of the "good" ones—or at least least bad ones—unequivocally stating that waterboarding is torture. Yet apparently he takes terrorism so lightly these days that he'll sell fake threats of terrorism if you pay him enough money to do so.
Photo via David McNew/Getty