I met Inglewood’s esteemed mayor James T. Butts yesterday and let me tell ya, I wouldn’t mess with that guy.
The brief meeting and interview took place at City Hall in Inglewood after a lively press conference organized in response to a lawsuit filed by Azoff MSG Entertainment last month over plans by the Clippers to potentially build an NBA arena a mile-and-a-half from the Forum. (I covered it in more detail here).
It’s understandable why Azoff and MSG owner James Dolan would not want an NBA arena built practically on top of their $100 million gem, which is the highest grossing concert venue in the state. But in filing a lawsuit last month accusing Mayor Butts of lying to Azoff MSG Entertainment to get them to end a lease on city-owned land, Azoff and crew have started a war with a former ally that is probably going to get nasty and uncomfortable real quick.
By my tally, Azoff is now fighting with Mayor Butts, AEG, the ‘pirates at Youtube,’ most radio stations in North America, a sportswriter at the Daily News and maybe the game room at Microsoft Theater (but he’s not fighting me, love ya Uncle Irving!).
I only met Mayor Butts for a few minutes, but my sense was that the former captain and police chief was not someone to be trifled with. In responding to Azoff’s lawsuit, Mayor Butts was quick to spill the beans on a secret dispute between Azoff and Stan Kroenke, and accuse MSG of hiring private investigators to infiltrate Inglewood and sabotage his mayorship. In his legal response to Azoff, Mayor Butts pointed out that he was reelected to office in 2014 by an 84% vote, meaning city residents have his back. Perhaps it’s naivety on my part, but something tells me that when it comes to battling Azoff, Butts a) already got what he wanted with the Forum, b) controls much of the land around the Forum and, most importantly, c) doesn’t give a you-know-what.
Azoff has a right to be mad that Butts is courting the Clippers to build an arena down the street from the Forum — it seems crazy to have two facilities that close, fighting for content and cannibalizing each other for events. But Azoff seems to have crossed a red line attacking Mayor Butts’ character and now Azoff finds himself in a punching match with a guy who isn’t afraid to punch back.