This Thanksgiving, for the first time since I was a toddler, I will not be watching any NFL games. I find the League’s disrespect for our country and our national anthem reprehensible and a totally unwarranted injection of partisan anti-police politics into a cherished sport. I’m hardly alone in that belief, as a recent Remington Research poll found that 80 percent of Americans responded that they’d like to see less politics during sporting events.
Most of the blame for this mess clearly lies with Commissioner Roger Goodell, whose feckless lack of leadership allowed this issue to fester despite clear NFL rules about players standing respectfully for our flag. Amazingly, Goodell is about to ink a new contract that, according to ESPN, will pay him approximately $40 million a year and perhaps include such perks as lifetime private jet travel. It’s astounding that the NFL owners, a very savvy group of business leaders, would reward Goodell with such generosity after his many management fumbles including the Ray Rice scandal, Deflate-gate, and sagging TV ratings.
At first when I saw news of this largesse, I thought “well who cares, if the NFL owners want to overpay their Commissioner, that’s their problem.” Except…it isn’t, not entirely. In reality, the degree to which we taxpayers subsidize the NFL almost defies belief. It represents, at both the local and national levels of government, the very worst kind of cronyism and a complete giveaway of welfare to the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent. Both directly and indirectly, we the taxpayers are paying both these billionaire owners and the rest of this disrespectful, unpatriotic organization, including Roger Goodell.
The funds flow primarily via mammoth subsidies for NFL stadiums. The Super Bowl will be played this year in the Minnesota Viking’s US Bank Stadium, which cost taxpayers there over $500 million despite the reported $5.3 billion wealth of team owner Zygi Wilf. Adding to that insult, Minnesota government officials who approved that deal received free tickets and food to all future games there.
Minnesota’s massive misuse of hard-earned taxpayer capital is hardly unique. Las Vegas just promised its $500 million subsidy to lure the Oakland Raiders to move. The San Francisco 49ers’ new stadium in Santa Clara fleeced taxpayers there for $621 million. All told, according to Watchdog.org, the billionaire club of NFL owners and, by extension, Roger Goodell has expropriated $7 billion since 2000 on taxpayers subsidies for stadiums. In addition, because funding bonds are typically issued as municipal projects, they evade federal taxation, costing the federal Treasury $3.2 billion during the same period.
The NFL and other sports leagues try to rationalize this welfare to moguls and corporations through economic investment arguments. But a 15 year study by George Mason University economists debunked those claims. They determined that “little or none of the money makes its way back to the taxpayers who subsidize professional sports teams.
NFL owners need to follow the lead of New England Patriot owner Robert Kraft and privately finance their stadiums. Taxpayers cannot fund a private league that pays players and coaches millions per year while charging ticket prices totally out of reach to working class fans. And Roger Goodell should be given a pink slip rather than an exorbitant new contract.