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OP-ED: It Takes a Little Courage to Stop a lot of Disrespect




A good pair of jeans, are a good pair of jeans. So why have I preferred Levi’s over other brands? I am all San Francisco and have viewed Levi Strauss & Co. the same way for years.

In addition, this inventor of jeans, which first began manufacturing its iconic brand in 1853 San Francisco has an established reputation on social issues. Recently, I discovered another reason to be proud to wear Levi’s. Mr. Strauss died in 1902, however, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed everything he worked to build. In the spirit of its founder, the company continued to pay its displaced workers.

Today, I start to stop, a lot of the disrespect of Blacks in San Francisco by questioning Levi Strauss & Co. values and vision. As a San Franciscan resident since 1960, the naming rights deal Levi’s signed with the 49ers worth $220 million over 20 years for the new Santa Clara 49ers stadium has me asking; where do the company’s values and vision appear in this deal?

Levi Strauss & Co. website’s “Values and vision” statement:

“Empathy — walking in other people’s shoes…”

“Originality — being authentic and innovative…”

“Integrity — doing the right thing…”

“Courage — standing up for what we believe…”

The 49ers took a $1.3 billion dollar stadium project out of a struggling Black community where Candlestick Park is located. Then asked and received from city officials an option out of the team’s 2015 year $ 6 million lease, for the mere upfront fee of $1 million. I can imagine Mr. Strauss telling current Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh, “Walking in other people’s shoes was never intended to be used to step on anyone.”

According to published reports, the $1.3 billion 49er stadium built by Turner/Devcon has offered only 1.6% of its contracts to minority contractors. 70% of the players that generate most of the team’s revenue are Black. Being authentic and innovative; Mr. Strauss who reportedly had no prejudice in him would not have hidden behind Prop. 209; which Turner/Devcon has done to justify the selecting of its sub-contractors.

The delays by the 49ers to improve the area closest to Candlestick Park, a blighted housing project called “Alice Griffith Housing” for fear that it would interfere with the team’s season activities is reprehensible. Doing the right thing as Mr. Strauss was known for meant he would have reached out to the community, not the 49ers.

Six months after NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell vowed, in a June 15, 2011 letter that the NFL “Supports communities that support us”, the NFL loaned the 49ers $200 million to move out of the struggling community the 49ers called home for more than 40 of the team’s 67 years in the city. I could be wrong but I think Mr. Strauss would have had the courage to stand up to the NFL and say, “You broke your promise”?

Any sports team should have the right to go wherever they feel they can make the most profit. However, breaking every rule of respect in leaving should not be tolerated. Did Levi Strauss & Co. co-signed the move by putting aside its founder’s values and vision in a deal to hitch its wagon to the San Francisco 49ers?

Due to my expanding waste line, I am currently wearing jeans that don’t fit me. Don’t worry, out of respect for myself and America, I promise, no sagging. Nevertheless, in protest of this blatant disrespect of a struggling Black community, I will be wearing my current small collection of jeans until the 2016 Super Bowl, which will be hosted by the city of San Francisco.

In all honesty only one pair are Levi’s but I plan to donate them all to charity; in accordance to Levi Strauss & Co. stated policy.

Struggling communities across America; where many past and present NFL players got their start, should rise up. With a dignified approach, tell current CEO of Levi’s “These Jeans don’t fit.” And if Mr. Bergh ignores our complaint, began a donation drive designed to stop the Super Bowl from being a comfortable fit for a city that shows little or no respect for its struggling Black community.

Send postcards to:

CEO Chip Bergh
Levi Strauss & Co.
1155 Battery Street
San Francisco, CA 94111

This an editorial and does not express the opinions and/or thoughts of the Post Newspaper Group.




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