“This was not the first time we experienced this.”
Brandon Mebane. Photo by Jeffrey Beall/Wikimedia Commons.
In 2016, NFL owners granted permission for the St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers to relocate to Los Angeles, a city without an NFL franchise since 1994. Left out of the three-way race were the Oakland Raiders, who were later approved to move to Las Vegas. After taking a year to weigh their options, the Chargers will be playing in Los Angeles for the 2017 season, and so far, the welcome has been chilly at best. According to Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke, “The Chargers might not even be in the top-five favorite NFL teams in Los Angeles.”
The Chargers’ not-so-warm welcome to the Los Angeles market can change with success on the field. But one player believes the negative reception he’s received can’t be fixed with a playoff berth. According to defensive end Brandon Mebane, several black players are having a hard time finding housing. “Some owners in the suburbs we were visiting did not want us living in their house,” Mebane wrote on his blog.
Mebane and several other Charger players have been looking for residences near the Chargers’ new training facility in Costa Mesa, California, in Orange County. Unlike progressive, diverse Los Angeles County to the north, the “O.C.” is best known as one of the few conservative hot spots in California — and a place where black people are virtually nonexistent. Mebane and his family decided on renting a home in nearby Irvine. Irvine is the largest city in the U.S. with an Asian plurality which accounts for 45% of the population, while black residents are only 1.8%.
Irvine, California. Photo by Catatonique/Wikimedia Commons.
Mebane and his wife turned in their rental application, sweetened by an offer to put up the first six months in advance. The couple had a credit score in the 800s, and Mebane is in the second season of a $13.5 million deal. But a few days later, they were denied because another applicant had a credit score four points higher. “When your credit score is in the 800s, it’s pretty much a wash. But you can’t tell a person they can’t come in your neighborhood because they’re black; that’s against the law,” Mebane told the Daily News. “They don’t actually say those types of things. But they’ll point out things like those four points. The neighborhood was brand new. There were no black families there.”
According to his blog, many of Mebane’s teammates are dealing with the same type of discrimination. “Some other black teammates were having trouble getting owners to rent to them, too,” he wrote. “A teammate in the same situation offered to pay A YEAR upfront and was denied. One landlord even changed the requirements on another teammate after his family submitted their application so that they would no longer be eligible.”
Despite the frustrating discrimination in Orange County, as a native of Los Angeles, 40 miles to the north, Mebane is still happy to be back where he grew up. “My football career started at Crenshaw High in South Central LA nearly twenty years ago,” he blogged. “I spent my first 18 years in the same neighborhood. Coming home feels great after living away for so long.”