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49ers CEO criticized for “buying” city council elections

By Bertina Fan and Reagan Liu Dec. 9, 2020

Jessica Lin Art

Jed York, Chief Executive Officer for the San Francisco 49ers, recently faced backlash for attempting to “buy” Santa Clara City Council seats during November’s elections. To boost four candidates’—Anthony Becker, Harbir Bhatia, Suds Jain and Kevin Park—chances for winning their respective races, York donated over three million dollars to the Citizens for Efficient Government and Full Voting Rights, a political action committee (PAC) founded by former Democratic Congressman Mike Honda.

“The municipal government and the 49ers have fought over curfew restrictions, custody stipulations and rent payments for the stadium”

Politicians such as Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor believe that York’s actions are rooted in self-interest, noting York’s history of clashing with city and county officials. Since York moved his team to Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium in 2014, the municipal government and the 49ers have repeatedly fought over curfew restrictions, custody stipulations and rent payments for the stadium. In late October, Santa Clara County also banned 49er fans from purchasing tickets for in-person games, overriding permission Levi’s Stadium received from California Governor Gavin Newsom. Due to the county’s regulations, York claims that the 49ers have lost over $2.7 million in revenue from cancelled ticket sales.

Since then, Anthony Becker, Suds Jain and Kevin Park have defeated incumbents and won their elections. Now, half of the Santa Clara City Council’s six seats are held by 49ers-backed candidates.

“Jed York’s donations are problematic because they present a strong conflict of interest. With increased influence on the council, the 49ers are likely going to petition for custody of Levi’s Stadium. Although the stadium is currently owned by the city of Santa Clara, York’s victories may change that predicament in the next few years,” Sophomore Aiden Bulow said.

“They explained that the team’s only intention was to support political representation for minorities.”

All three new councilmembers have deflected allegations of excessive influence on their future policies by York though. Becker, in particular, explained that he was not owned by the 49ers and would be acting of his own free will. Moreover, each of the three have made sure to clarify that none of them received any money directly, reiterating that York’s funds were solely channeled towards campaigning. Others, like Sophomore Karis Moon, call for a more holistic assessment surrounding the 49ers’ actions.

“There is most likely a combination of two motives: first, to advance his own political views and second, to increase support for his team. Although boosting these candidates will benefit the 49ers, we should not assume that this is the sole reason for funding their campaigns,” Moon said.

The Citizens for Efficient Government and Full Voting Rights PAC—at the center of the Jed York-Santa Clara controversy—also released a statement claiming that their only motive for supporting the four candidates was to increase diversity in government. When asked about York’s donations to the PAC, Rahul Chandhok, Vice President of Public Affairs and Strategic Communication for the 49ers, similarly explained to the San Francisco Chronicle that the team’s only intention was to support political representation for minorities, as the majority of the current city council is white. The elected candidates he supported do seem to fit the bill. Becker, a gay man, has a background in film studies; Jain was born in Delhi, India and worked on the Santa Clara Planning Commission (a land-use advisor board), as well as on Santa Clara Charter Review Committee; Park, a former engineer is the only Korean American on the Council.

Even though the PAC and the 49ers both claim their intentions are benign, critics have called York’s success a dangerous precedent, possibly providing the CEO with a stronghold in local politics. Although there is no possibility of reversing election results, they urge citizens to call for fairer elections in the future to prevent powerful sports figures from exerting undue influence.


About the Contributors

Bertina Fan

Staff Writer

Bertina Fan is a sophomore at Leland High School and is a staff writer for The Charger Account. She likes to start off messages with "ヾ(°∇°*) Hi!"

Reagan Liu

Staff Writer

Reagan Liu is a sophomore at Leland High school and a staff writer at the Leland Charger Account. He loves music and listens to many different genres of music in his free time. He never skips a meal and consumes all the nutrients needed to stay healthy.

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