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October 31, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Are we so blinded by our love of sports that we’re willing to be fleeced by the most profitable sports league in the world and its billionaire team owners?
In Virginia, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, who styles himself as a budget-slashing conservative crusader, took $4 million from taxpayers’ pockets and handed the money to the Washington Redskins, for the team to upgrade a workout facility. Hoping to avoid scrutiny, McDonnell approved the gift while the state legislature was out of session. The Redskins’ owner, Dan Snyder, has a net worth estimated by Forbes at $1 billion. But even billionaires like to receive expensive gifts.
Throughout the report, Easterbrook provides an exhaustive look at how American taxpayers have financed “70 percent of the capital cost of NFL stadiums,” in addition to many ongoing infrastructure and operating costs. Here’s a tidbit about the Seattle Seahawks:
CenturyLink Field, where the Seattle Seahawks play, opened in 2002, with Washington State taxpayers providing $390 million of the $560 million construction cost. The Seahawks, owned by Paul Allen, one of the richest people in the world, pay the state about $1 million annually in rent in return for most of the revenue from ticket sales, concessions, parking, and broadcasting (all told, perhaps $200 million a year).
The Seahawks are a great team, but this is just plain wrong, especially when we’re struggling to fully fund public education and to sustain the cost of essential services such as the Metro transit system and health care.
Here’s the kicker: The National Football League is tax exempt. To the IRS, the NFL has been known as the Nonprofit Football League for decades. NBC News reports it gets away with this by only claiming tax immunity for the main office, which operated in 2011 with about $255 million worth of revenue. The NFL’s main function is to distribute billions generated from licensing and television deals to its 32 for-profit teams, each worth on average $1.2 billion according to this Forbes report. Still doesn’t pass the smell test. How many trade or charitable organizations pay their top official (in this case NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell) nearly $30 million? (more…)
October 14, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Sorry to bring everyone down from their Sunday Seahawks high, but the question must be asked in light of mounting evidence that football is a dangerous game: Would you let your son play football?
Whether you have a kid or want to answer this hypothetically, here’s a quick poll:
Regardless of your answer, the NFL is here to stay. Americans adore football despite dire warnings from scientists that football has caused long-term brain damage in some players.
- Last week, PBS’s investigative series “Frontline” broadcast a two-hour program on this topic. Here’s a link to a brief, must-see visual interactive explaining how Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy has affected at least 50 players as young as 17. Watch the program below:
- Author and New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell wrote a thought-provoking and influential piece in 2009 comparing football to dogfighting. He has not let up on his criticism of the game, as tracked in this August report from The Atlantic.
- On Friday, The New York Times’ editorial page published a fascinating guest column by Gregg Easterbrook, author of “The King of Sports: Football’s Impact on America.” in which he argues President Obama needs to get involved in reforming the game today, just as former President Theodore Roosevelt did in the early, bloody days of football. Easterbrook writes that Roosevelt’s involvement made college football less brutal and led to the creation of the NCAA. (more…)