Ed Lee was an activist for San Francisco his entire life, before and while he was its mayor. He fought aggressively for the city both conceptually and in practice from the time he entered public life as a defender of immigrants rights in the 1980s until he was elected mayor in 2011.
Thus, his passing of a heart attack early Tuesday morning left a hole in the city and its view of itself that will not be easy to fill. This includes his city-centric sports view, which was always “What’s good for the city is good by me.”
Like most mayors, he was there for the grand times, like the last two Giants World Series parades and the two Warriors arena ribbon cuttings. He was an unabashed facilitator for the Warrior projects in particular, even though the Pier 30/32 project had to be relocated to the south when public opposition to the project overwhelmed his ability to move opinions.
He also was the mayor on duty when the 49ers left for Santa Clara in 2014, though that move was already well in the works before he took office, which is why it is typically misleading to credit or blame a mayor for an owner’s whims.
Lee, though, was an unambiguously pro-business mayor, and insofar as sports franchises are actually businesses with games attached, he was all-in on the Giants and, later, the Warriors. Both teams sent statements of condolence, acknowledging that he was more than willing to be at their sides when his political or persuasive skills were required.
His replacement for the moment, acting mayor London Breed, will likely not have as visible a presence on the sporting landscape, as the Warriors arena project is already well underway and the Giants are safely ensconced at Third and King.
Lee’s measure as mayor, though, was not his sporting profile, as it has been for other mayors across the country. His favorite team was The City itself, and he fought for it passionately until his death. In that way, he was as important to his constituency as Buster Posey or Stephen Curry is to theirs, so in the end he seems less like an interloper on the sporting landscape and more a passionate advocate for the city in which they played, or will play in the future.