Admittedly, I’m an armchair fan who enjoys watching pro sports. But today the business of professional athletics has become an ugly mirror of our nation’s ills.
Pro franchises are identified by their home cities. But that’s really just a ruse to promote loyalty. They’re not the New England Patriots, they’re the “Robert Kraft” Patriots, the “Jerry Jones” Cowboys, and the “Paul Allen” Seahawks. Now Stan Kroenke plans to move his Rams to Los Angeles, where he can reap millions more from fans apparently starved for gridiron mediocrity. The source of his wealth, Wal-Mart, is the epitome of corporate welfare. It’s among hundreds of corporations (some paying zero income taxes) that receive hundreds of billions annually from taxpayers, in TIFs, credits, and giveaways … far more than welfare programs to actually help the disadvantaged.
Smaller markets fear losing their “big-town” image if their sports franchises leave. So cities and states offer billions in no-strings-attached cash, directly from taxpayers enticing owners to move in, or to not leave. We saw this in St. Louis as Bidwill’s Cardinals left, when Frontiere’s Rams moved to St. Louis, and now with Kroenke’s Rams … empty promises from billionaires interested only in feeding at the public trough.
It’s sickening, but the only remedy is federal legislation to stop it everywhere.
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I suppose in 2016, I’ll root for the Green Bay Packers. That’s the only pro franchise owned by the people of their city, not a billionaire. It’s something other rich franchisees despise, and sadly, the NFL will no longer permit.
Kevin J. Gagen