Mayor Muriel Bowser cut the ribbon for the new D.C. United Audi Stadium at Buzzard Point in Southwest, marking the beginning of a new era for the local soccer team. The stadium includes 20,000 seats, will attract one million new visitors to the area and is expected to generate $1.6 billion “in total economic activity over the life of the stadium,” according to a press release.
It is difficult not to celebrate the achievements of our city that have resulted in D.C. being both labeled and lauded as the best of the best in so many ways. However, new stadiums and other developments emerging East of the Anacostia River also serve as monuments to the racial and economic divide growing in the nation’s capital.
Soccer, or football as it is commonly called outside of the U.S., has more than 240 million people who play the sport — a competitive game that has evolved from participants kicking an animal skin-covered ball in an open field to today’s high-stakes World Cup, televised in every country around the world. Sponsors spend huge sums to brand stadiums and team gear for this global sport that includes a diverse roster of talented players who hail from every continent on the planet.
Still, in the nation’s capital, D.C. United leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to substantive outreach efforts to neighboring communities where they could introduce the sport to children who live just a stone’s throw away from the $400 million stadium as it prepares to open its doors in Southwest this week.
Less than two miles away, at Ballou Senior High School, stands a two-year-old, beautifully designed soccer field that has never had a game played on it. The school lacks both a soccer team or a coach — a real tragedy when one considers that youth make up more than 50 percent of the population in Ward 8 — the ward in which Ballou is located. This is an abomination and D.C. United officials should be embarrassed to tout their new stadium when young people across this city are routinely overlooked despite a Major League Soccer mandated diversity initiative.
Even this newspaper was allegedly rebuffed because the market which the Washington Informer serves was said not to line-up with the those targeted by D.C. United.
Does that mean African Americans aren’t interested in soccer? Definitely not true.
We wish the same success to D.C. United that we extend to the Capitals, the Nationals, the Wizards, the Mystics, the Washington football team and any others representing the District. But we predict that management will have to change their attitude if they expect the team to achieve its future revenue goals.