A bi-partisan proposal to stop taxpayers from funding huge sports arenas has taken on a new urgency in light of the “take a knee” crusade sweeping across the NFL.
Back in June, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and James Lankford (R-OK) co-sponsored the bill, citing the ungodly amount the NFL generates on sales of everything from tickets to merchandise as a reason to stop the taxpayer from having to fund expensive mega sports stadiums.
“Professional sports teams generate billions of dollars in revenue,” Booker said in a June 13 statement. “There’s no reason why we should give these multimillion-dollar businesses a federal tax break to build new stadiums. It’s not fair to finance these expensive projects on the backs of taxpayers, especially when wealthy teams end up reaping most of the benefits.”
Said Lankford: “The federal government is responsible for a lot of important functions, but financing sports stadiums for multi-million — sometimes billion — dollar franchises is definitely not one of them. Using billions of federal taxpayer dollars for the subsidization of private stadiums when we have real infrastructure needs in our country is not a good way to prioritize a limited amount of funds.”
Lankford’s office is quoted as saying that support for the bill by Hill colleagues gained steam in “the last four weeks,” very likely due to the protest begun by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick last year that culminated Sunday in many players and coaches kneeling (or outright refusing to come to the field) during the playing of the national anthem at professional football games.
Watchdog.org notes that the amount taxpayers have kicked in to fund stadiums across the country is roughly $7 billion. “Overall, taxpayers have spent nearly $3 billion on the 16 stadiums that will host NFL games during the season’s opening weekend. And over the past couple of decades, we’ve given NFL teams nearly $7 billion total in aid for their stadiums.”
Conservative Review firebrand Michelle Malkin has had enough of what she calls the “NFL pigskins at the public trough”. She doesn’t buy the line that taxpayers should help pay for sports arenas because they benefit from jobs and economic benefits once the stadium is in use:
Sports economists have concluded repeatedly that the effects of stadium subsidies on employment and economic activity are negligible — or even negative. Scott Wolla of the St. Louis Federal Reserve reported earlier this year, “In a 2017 poll, 83 percent of the economists surveyed agreed that ‘Providing state and local subsidies to build stadiums for professional sports teams is likely to cost the relevant taxpayers more than any local economic benefits that are generated.'”
Yet, the NFL, its teams and its sponsors continue to benefit from a bonanza of tax-free loans, municipal bonds, rent waivers and property tax exemptions. Congress provided the league with an antitrust exemption that protects its monopoly broadcasting rights. Localities have raided “emergency” funds to help pay for stadium construction. And corporate benefactors write off their expenses for luxury boxes, tickets and naming-rights purchases.
Perhaps, instead of burning jerseys or tickets, civic-minded individuals that want to see a change in how the NFL operates should get involved in helping convince their state and local legislatures to stop forcing the public financing of NFL stadiums.