Though the Lot J development deal negotiated by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and the NFL Jaguars is on the goal line awaiting a City Council vote, it hasn’t passed yet, and if it does it will be despite concerns from the local NAACP.
In a letter dated Dec. 17 to National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell, Jacksonville NAACP,President Isaiah Rumlin urged Goodell to “act swiftly to ensure the League acts swiftly to rectify an injustice presently underway in our community.”
The letter lays out the economics of the deal, noting that billionaire owner Shad Khan would be the beneficiary of more than $365 million in “mostly borrowed funds.”
The deal, Rumlin said, was negotiated outside the Sunshine, with “deliberately flouted oversight and accountability at every step.”
Rumlin’s letter went on to yoke the Lot J redevelopment deal with the effort last decade to explore privatization for the city’s public utility, JEA.
“The same pattern of bad behavior is continuing with the same stakeholders,” Rumlin contends, “and it is shocking to see Shad Khan and Mark Lamping joining lobbyists, developers, and self-dealing city leaders to exploit Jacksonville residents.”
Rumlin’s letter contends that the local NAACP has requested an investigation from the Florida Bureau of Law Enforcement and the United States Department of Justice “into the potentially unlawful activities regarding the Lot J development plan.” When asked to clarify, he said that Lot J was “tied together” with the exploration of privatization of JEA.
Rumlin goes on to urge Goodell to push the NFL to “immediately withdraw the support of the NFL, and the Jacksonville Jaguars, from the current Lot J redevelopment deal.”
Even if Goodell had the power to make that happen, it’s an unlikely stance for a commissioner all too aware of the team’s concerns about financial viability in Jacksonville.
With Jaguars President Mark Lamping calling the franchise a “free agent team,” it’s clear that this deal, along with a stadium upgrade eyed for after the next round of city elections in 2023, is on track to pass.
But that ratification will not be welcomed by the region’s leading civil rights group.