(At Least For a Year)
By John Lawrence
The Romans used to provide Bread and Circuses for their populace to keep them pacified. Nothing much has changed in 2000 years. The San Diego Chargers want taxpayers to spend $350 million to buy them a new Colosseum. And they’re not really even the San Diego Chargers. They are the Dean Spanos Chargers. He owns them. The players should all be wearing “Dean Spanos Chargers” on their shirts. The Chargers merchandise should all bear his name. As we’ve seen recently, the Chargers would think nothing of “Bolt”ing to Los Angeles if the grass were greener there. But their quest for a shiny new stadium in another locale has been stymied at least temporarily.
The only team that can rightfully be called by a city’s name is the Green Bay Packers. Although not exactly owned by the City of Green Bay, the Packers have been a publicly owned, non-profit corporation since August 18, 1923. Close enough. If the Mayor wants the Chargers to stay in San Diego (that’s questionable after Spanos’ quasi-betrayal), why doesn’t he offer to have the city buy the team? Oops. That’s not possible because NFL rules forbid it. They even made an exception for Green Bay.
But seriously, folks, wouldn’t it warm the cockles of your collective hearts more if San Diego made the decision to forego professional, concussion-inducing (look what happened to hometown hero Junior Seau) NFL football whose goal is to pad the pockets of billionaires and instead spend that money solving the homeless problem and repairing infrastructure in order to indeed become a world class city? Or would it diminish your civic pride to not be able to tune into the “Dean Spanos Chargers” on TV and brag about what a great place San Diego is to live although you have to step over the homeless on your way to the game. Would you be crestfallen if you could not rent or own a skybox in a brand new multibillion-dollar Colosseum?
Without Taxpayer Subsidies Professional Football Would Not Exist
NFL football has never been profitable except for the fact that they’ve gotten (up to now) taxpayers to pay for their stadiums. And like petulant children whose old bicycle is never good enough, they want a new one every few years. Wahhh! I want my new stadium and I want you all to pay for it. The Dean Spanos Chargers will be very angry if you, the taxpayers, don’t grant them their entirely justifiable (in their eyes) wish. In fact they will take their marbles (or footballs, deflated or not) and move away. But where? They thought they had a new home, but their new home turned out to be a will ‘o the wisp. It turns out that another billionaire got there first.
St. Louis, former home of the LA Rams, was snookered by them according to David Williams writing in the Tulsa World:
What was left out of that announcement [that the Rams were moving to LA] was that taxpayers would still be on the hook paying for the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
St. Louis and Missouri taxpayers paid the full $280 million cost of construction for the Edward Jones Dome in 1995. In an effort to keep the Rams in St. Louis, government officials tried to persuade the team to stay with the promise of $500 million for a new billion-dollar stadium.
Rams owner, and billionaire, Stan Kroenke decided to move despite the generous taxpayer gift. The problem is that Missouri taxpayers aren’t off the hook because they will be paying $12 million [a year] until 2022 on the Edward Jones Dome.
In addition, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, “An effort to persuade the owner of the St. Louis Rams to keep his team in Missouri by building a new riverfront football stadium not only failed, but also left the public on the hook for $16.2 million in expenses.”
The article also noted that, “Architecture firm HOK made more than $10.5 million for its work on the stadium plan, while the Dome authority’s attorneys, Blitz, Bardgett & Deutsch, billed almost $900,000. Thompson Coburn bond and financing lawyers charged an additional $760,000.”
Taxpayers have funded all but two of the NFL stadiums to the tune of $7 billion in subsidies. And people wonder why there is such an inequality gap between the 1% and the 99%. It’s at least partly because the 99% have voted to give their money away to the 1%! Politicians claim that building new stadiums, er Colosseums, where present day gladiators do battle while sustaining concussions, creates jobs and helps the economy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The main result of taxpayer-financed Colosseums is to line the pockets of billionaires who don’t always use their money for philanthropic and charitable purposes:
A study released in September 2015 by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance measured poverty rates and median household income for the areas in which the stadiums were located. In 60 percent of the cases studied, poverty rates increased and median household incomes decreased. In only 20 percent of the case studies was there an improvement in poverty rates and median household income.
The most expensive stadium for taxpayers is Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the Indianapolis Colts) with an astounding $619 million in taxpayer funds used.
Taxpayers’ massive investment in building a stadium for Colts billionaire team owner Jim Irsay proved disastrous for the Indianapolis economy. Since the construction of the stadium, the poverty rate in Marion County, the county in which Indianapolis is located, skyrocketed from 12.7 percent to 21.3 percent and the median household income dropped more than $10,000, from $51,553 to $41,478.
Pushing off 86 percent of the cost of stadium construction on to the backs of taxpayers freed up plenty of spending money for the Colts. Some of that money was used to buy a condo for Kimberly Wundrum, Irsay’s mistress. Wundrum later died of an overdose in the Colts-owned home. Soon thereafter, Irsay was arrested for DUI and drug possession, was suspended six games by the NFL and attended rehab in several facilities around the country.
Dean Spanos and Chargers Face Greek Tragedy
Be that as it may, Chargers owner Dean Spanos is in a dilemma of mythic proportions, a veritable Greek tragedy. Taxpayers are hip to the fact that they’ve been bamboozled and hornswoggled by the non-profit NFL which is owned by 18 billionaires (non-profit?) and by the Big Daddy of the NFL universe, Commissioner Roger (front man) Goodell. Actually, the NFL gave up its tax-exempt status in 2015 following public criticism. Commissioner Roger Goodell labeled it a “distraction”. You think? Billionaires getting away with not paying taxes – what else is new?
But getting back to Spanos. He is left in the position of playing second fiddle to Kroenke if he moves to LA or staying in San Diego among the fans who have been betrayed by his shenanigans and those of his henchman, Fabiani, whose arrogance is beyond the pale. “If it’s a plan that’s just thrown out there to provide political cover for elected officials so that people can say, ‘Hey, we tried’ then we probably wouldn’t wait around to watch the thing go down in defeat in 2016,” Fabiani said. Oh, but Roger Goodell and the NFL told him to do just that – wait around! And now that they are stuck in San Diego waiting around for another year, Fabiani and Spanos are singing a different tune. It looks like he may have to have his Chargers play in that icky piece of shit – Qualcomm Stadium – for another year at least. Now they want the fans back. Good luck with that.
Spanos: “My Focus is on San Diego”
“We have an option and an agreement with the Los Angeles Rams to go to Inglewood in the next year, but my focus is on San Diego,” Spanos wrote in a letter to Chargers fans. Spanos’ “My focus is on San Diego” didn’t add the words “for now” but that’s what it amounts to. He didn’t say “My commitment is to San Diego.” Since he’s building a headquarters and a training facility in Santa Ana, it definitely doesn’t sound like he’s committed to the Chargers staying in San Diego.
In a supposedly conciliatory letter to San Diego Chargers fans, Spanos talks about the “world class stadium experience San Diego fans deserve.” What about the world class football experience San Diego fans deserve? Why don’t you concentrate on that first? Spanos can’t get two words out of his mouth without talking about a “new stadium” with the same exuberance and exultation that someone on the Price is Right makes over a “new car”! Maybe if Spanos provided Chargers’ fans with a world-class football team, they would build him a world class stadium.
Of course, if San Diego voters are foolish enough to build Spanos a world class stadium so that they get the “world class stadium experience they deserve”, Spanos might reconsider moving. Spanos has hardcore Chargers’ fans genuflecting and kissing his butt over the fact that the Chargers are staying probably just one more year. Note to Chargers fans: you’re being played like a fiddle. Most of you won’t be able to afford seats in the “world class stadium” so relax and watch the game on your 65-inch world class TV like you would do anyway wherever the Chargers play.
Spanos wants San Diegans to pony up hundreds of millions in tax money or else he’s going to take his marbles or football, as the case may be, and go home except for the fact that he has no home and Kroenke is an abusive parent. Mayor Faulconer is a willing patsy because it’s in his interest to keep an NFL team in San Diego in a brand new stadium that the majority of fans will never be able to afford to see the insides of. And as for Fabiani, Spanos’ lawyer, he’s already pissed off most of San Diego with his arrogant, self-serving bullshit.
David Cay Johnston in his book Free Lunch nails the NFL con game:
The huge gifts of money that wealthy owners of sports teams wheedle out of taxpayers are a free lunch that someone must fund. Often that burden falls on poor children and the ambitious among the poor. Sports-team subsidies undermine a century of effort to build up the nation’s intellectual capacity and, thus, its wealth. Andrew Carnegie poured money from his nineteenth-century steel fortune into local libraries across America because he was certain it would build a better and more prosperous nation which indeed it did. These libraries imposed costs on taxpayers, but they also returned benefits as the nation’s store of knowledge grew. That is library spending is a prime example of a subsidy adding value.
Many people born into modest circumstances have risen to great heights because they could educate themselves for free, and stay out of trouble at the public library. …
But today library hours, as well as budgets to buy books, have been slashed in Los Angeles, Detroit, Baltimore, and other cities, yet there is plenty of money to give away to sports-team owners.
Art Modell, who pitted Cleveland and Baltimore against each other in a bidding war for his football team, was asked in 1996 about tax money going into his pocket at a time when libraries were being closed. It was a well-framed question. His Baltimore Ravens is the only major sports team whose name is a literary allusion, to the haunting poem by Edgar Allen Poe for his lost love Lenore.
“The pride and the presence of a professional football team is far more important than 30 libraries,” Modell said. He spoke without a hint of irony or any indication that he had ever upon a midnight dreary, pondered weak and weary the effect of his greed on the human condition. How many Baltimore children who might have become [successful] will instead end up on the other side of the law? That may not be measurable but that some will because of Modell’s greed is as certain as the sun rising in the east. …
We starve libraries—and parks, bridge safety, and schools—to enrich sports-team owners. …
The value of the leagues’ exemption from the laws of competition is illustrated by the odd fact that Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest city, has no football team. So long as that city remains teamless, the owners of football franchises use the threat of moving to the nation’s second largest market to extract money through public financing of new stadiums, rent rebates, and other official favors. Surely this would seem incongruous to the settlers who called their community El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles de la Porciuncula, [in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi who was devoted to serving the poor].
Taxpayers Should Just Say No to Building Billionaires New Stadiums
We taxpayers can no longer afford to subsidize these ‘welfare queen’ billionaires who live off of government handouts. They need to learn to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps instead. That’s the American way instead of sucking off the government teat. Furthermore, they ought to not be let off the hook by discharging their debts in bankruptcy court. Students can’t get rid of their debts that way; neither should billionaires be able to. We need to keep government taxing and spending down, and that means no more subsidies for billionaires and their sports teams. At the same time we need to show compassion for the less fortunate as Jesus preached: “Insofar as you’ve helped the least of these, my brethren, it is as if you’ve done it unto me.”
Will San Diego become a world class city by enacting its Climate Action Plan, repairing infrastructure, creating a world-class transit system and housing the homeless or will it continue down the American Road of worshiping billionaire owners and millionaire players by giving them gargantuan stadiums at taxpayer expense? I, for one, would take more civic pride in the former accomplishment.