I missed the game today. We were out hiking the Mud Creek Trail in Prince Albert National Park. I did hear the train wreck that was the postgame show.
- This is a pattern of Brendan Taman. He takes over a team that makes it to the Grey Cup, won’t challenge or change the roster and within a couple of years the team is old and horrible. It is what happened in Winnipeg and is what is happening in Regina. There is a reason why Hugh Campbell turned over 30% of his Edmonton Eskimos roster during his dynasty years. Time is undefeated and the message that no one is sacred is a powerful one.
- I don’t think a CFL team should ever hire a Canadian GM. The best football in the world collegiately is being played in the SEC and has for years. I think you need a GM that has strong ties in the SEC or the ACC, like Roy Shivers or Eric Tillman. It is connection with high school coaches, university position coaches and even junior college coaches who can help you identify you players that aren’t on the national radar but can help your football team.
- Speaking of Eric Tillman, is it too soon to consider bringing him back? I think it is but some will consider it.
- While I blame Brendan Taman, a lot of responsibility has to stand with Corey Chamblin. He seems unable to identify why the Riders are playing horrible and doesn’t know how to fix it. There have been other coaches that are good when things are going along great but can’t fix things when they run poorly (I think of Mike Singletary) because they are over their head schematically. Chamblin seems lost and over his head right now. So does his staff.
- Everyone gets on Chamblin for the penalties but I think this is on Taman. It is the kind of players you get. If you looked back at the player committing the most penalties, they would have a track record of doing it college and probably high school. As Jimmy Johnson used to say, “Don’t send me stupid players because you can’t coach stupid players”. We think talent is everything. It isn’t.
- While the Winnipeg Bluebombers defense isn’t amazing, it is better than the Riders and with probably less talent. Who is coaching that defense? A gentlemen name Ritchie Hall, previously defensive coordinator of the Saskatchewan Roughriders… back when they had a strong defense.
- I love the hoardes that get upset when you criticize the Saskatchewan Roughriders as “we are all one team”. No, not really. I am not on the team. I am a fan of the team. I buy stuff from the Rider store, I cheer for the team but what is going on with that office and that field is solely the domain of the directors, the management, coaches, and players. I don’t get a Grey Cup ring when they win and I am allowed to criticize the team when they are this bad.
- Speaking of bad, Chamblin’s post game interview was horrible when he offered up that there were issues with Brett Smith being benched and not being able to go back in. Umm, why offer that up if you aren’t going to expand on it. All it does it create speculation and media attention around you rookie QB and create a distraction when you are entering week 11 and still trying to win a game. Also, I was really disgusted by CKRM (I think it was Mitchell Blair but I could be wrong) asking Chamblin if he thought he would be fired. This is a man’s livelihood we are talking about and how did they really expect him to answer that? “Yes I think I should be fired”. If It was Chamblin I would have said, “Thanks but I am done with this interview.”
- So what’s next for the Riders? New stadium coming online in two years. Do they trust Taman to be able to rebuild the Riders for that season? From his track record, I don’t think I would.
Mark is trying out for Bedford Road’s senior football team this year. After playing every position on the defense last year, he decided to test himself against some older and stronger players. If he makes the team great, if not he will have tried and gotten some work in than if he had just played junior football.
Since practices start on Monday, it meant that we had to get him some gear this weekend. His cleats and gloves fit but we ran out after work to get him some shorts and some stay dry shirts. While we were at it, we picked up some cross trainers. All this so he can increase his chance of long term brain injury by playing football or developing cancer by playing football on the shredded toxic waste we call SMF Field.
Of course Oliver was in a bad mood over this. Despite only going into grade two, he can’t figure out why he can’t play tackle football yet. Apparently all other sports suck and aren’t worth his time. He has some time to wait until Grade 6 when Kinsmen Football starts. He isn’t impressed. He’ll be even less impressed when Mark takes off to play football.
When I criticized Field Turf going into SMF Field, I was ridiculed when I pointed to research that showed that the heat and things like ACL and MCLs would be on the rise. The argument was that it was better then the old Gordie Howe field was often mentioned. It never occured to anyone that we could put down good turf like the Hilltops play on each and every day at Ron Atchison Field. It also never occurred to people that maybe high schools don’t need to bus down to Howe Bowl all of the time and instead they could play on their home field like other cities do.
Now there is this. Field Turf is made from tires which are hazardous waste when they are tires but for some reason we have decided to let our children play on them in pellet form.
These are the days when the Women’s World Cup becomes truly grueling. Fewer days off, better opponents, more pressure. And a persistent obstacle the men never have to face – the artificial turf.
"I have plenty of blisters on my toes," United States forward Alex Morgan said with a resigned smile on Thursday.
That’s not a good thing for any player, let alone a star on the mend from knee and ankle ailments. "Turf achiness takes a little longer to recover from," Morgan said.
Michelle Heyman of Australia was even more blunt: "You wouldn’t want to see the bottom of our feet after a game," she told one Australian newspaper. "They just turn white. The skin is all ripped off; it’s pretty disgusting. It’s like walking on hot coals with your skin ripping and slowly cracking, constantly."
Well that isn’t the worst part.
Field temperatures in Edmonton for an earlier match soared as high as 120 degrees, even though the air temperature was in the low 70s. This weekend’s forecast for the Australians’ match with Japan is calling for a high around 90. One UNLV study found synthetic turf can heat up to 170 degrees in summer months. That poses risks ranging from dehydration to heat illness.
Then there is the possibility of faster collisions with other players, and with the ground. Jeffrey Kutcher, one of the world’s leading sports neurologists, told Yahoo Sports that studies of turf vs. grass haven’t been conclusive in his field, but "I would still stand behind the concept that grass is likely safer from a concussion standpoint."
No wait, that isn’t even the worst part. This is the worst part.
Artificial turf is used for playgrounds all over the continent, and battles are taking place over whether children are safe being exposed to the crushed tire rubber that makes up the turf. A Stockholm University study from 2012 found "automobile tires may be a potential source of highly carcinogenic dibenzopyrenes to the environment."
"It’s a serious, serious problem," says Nancy Alderman, president of the Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI), an organization of physicians and public health professionals. "We are concerned about the health of a whole generation now who are playing on these fields."
Research on the topic is not advanced enough to conclusively determine safety hazards, but anecdotal evidence has hit close to home for the U.S. team. Amy Griffin, assistant coach at the University of Washington and former mentor to Hope Solo, has compiled a list of 153 student-athletes, the majority of them soccer goalkeepers, who have been diagnosed with cancer over the last several years. She has sent her research to the Washington State Department of Health.
"I never said this is giving people cancer," Griffin said by phone. "But if you were me, and you saw the number of goalkeepers [with cancer] was so high, you’d be alarmed.
"The more I know about tires, the more I think, ‘What the heck? What are we doing?’ " Griffin said. "In large form it’s hazardous waste, and in crumb form it’s OK for kids?"
The EHHI has been studying this issue at Yale University, and it released a statement earlier this month revealing it has found 96 chemicals in the materials used for synthetic turf.
"Of the 96 chemicals detected," the statement read, "a little under a half have had no toxicity assessments done on them for their health effects. … Of the half that have had toxicity assessments, 20 percent are probable carcinogens."
The lead investigator on the study, Yale University professor Gabdoury Benoit, called the rubber infill "a witch’s brew of toxic substances. It seems irresponsible to market a hazardous waste as a consumer product."
FieldTurf, the company that provided the playing surface for three of the World Cup stadiums in Canada, wrote in an email to Yahoo Sports stating that "Scientific research from academic, federal and state government organizations has unequivocally failed to find any link between synthetic turf and cancer. We are committed as a company and as an industry to the safety of our fields and the athletes that compete on them – which is why we have encouraged the rigorous work from third-parties that has taken place over decades to confirm there are no negative health effects connected to synthetic turf." The company also forwarded an array of documents supporting its case.
The lack of proof of causality is not soothing to some experts, however. "Cancer is a 30- or 40-year process," Yale oncologist Barry Boyd said. "So long-term exposure may not show up until years later."
Part of the uncertainty is the extent of a player’s exposure to the crumb rubber. The preponderance of goalies in Griffin’s research is troubling, as those players are interacting more with the turf by repeatedly diving onto the ground. But American players here have said they have found the pellets all over their body even after post-match showers. "Anywhere and everywhere," defender Lori Chalupny said. If the pellets do have toxic characteristics – especially under extreme heat – the proximity of athletes to those characteristics is there after games.
So kids start playing Kinsmen Football on turf. They play three years on it at the SaskTel Soccer Centre and SMF Field. Then they play parts of four years of high school football. The best play four years of Hilltops and then Huskies on artificial turf.
Of course the reason we use turf is that it is cheap. No other reason. The NFL has known for years that it shortens careers, particularly of running backs whose knees pay the cost. Countless NCAA universities who have had artificial or field turf are going back to grass because of the injuries. Even the Arizona Cardinals who play in a dome stadium move the entire field outside during the week so they can have natural grass.
Good grief, the Blue Jays are paying $600,000 a year to Guelph University for them to develop a grass that will grow inside. Why? It is so hard on athletes, even baseball players to play on turf. Now it appears that the turf that Saskatoon just fundraised to install has a major health risk to the kids who are going to play on it. Nice job Saskatoon.
Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, who’s been photographed partying from coast to coast since the day he was drafted, entered a treatment facility Wednesday and is getting the help he needs, according to a family friend and advisor.
“Brad Beckworth, a friend and advisor to Manziel and his family, has confirmed that Johnny entered treatment on Wednesday,” a statement from Manziel’s publicist read. “Johnny knows there are areas in which he needs to improve in order to be a better family member, friend and teammate, and he thought the offseason was the right time to take this step.Â
“On behalf of Johnny and his family, we’re asking for privacy until he rejoins the team in Cleveland.”
The Browns also released the following statement from general manager Ray Farmer:
“We respect Johnny’s initiative in this decision and will fully support him throughout this process. Our players’ health and well-being will always be of the utmost importance to the Cleveland Browns. We continually strive to create a supportive environment and provide the appropriate resources, with our foremost focus being on the individual and not just the football player.
“Johnny’s privacy will be respected by us during this very important period and we hope that others will do the same.”
Manziel’s partying was chronicled over the last year, from floating on swans to rolling up a bill in the bar of a bathroom, which the Browns found most “disturbing,” sources told Northeast Ohio Media Group.
I am not a big fan of Johnny Manziel as a football player. Â I think he is better as a CFL than a NFL qb but I am happy for Manziel as a human being. Â His season was a train wreck last year in most part of his partying and alcohol consumption.
I also think that the jump from the SEC (or any team in the NCAA) is so big that only a few can make it. Â The talent is one reason but also you are no longer big man on campus. Â Coaches like Mack Brown, Kevin Sumlin, or Jimbo Fisher arenâ€™t covering for you. Â The school president isnâ€™t there to make excuses for you and there are no more professors who just want to be part of the â€œteamâ€. Â Vince Young never made the transition from college star to professional. Â Even Tim Tebow never seemed to get it (especially after he had some success in Denver). Â Hopefully Manziel finds some answers in rehab. Â Not about football but about life.
Most of you know how much I love the NFL. Â I wrote about it a couple of years ago in this post. Â Each weekend I catch a couple of games from Thursday night to Monday. Â I subscribed to NFL Now. Â I have a fantasy team. Â I have been a fan since I watched John Elway and the Denver Broncos blow the biggest lead in Monday Night Football history against the hated Los Angeles Raiders. Â Somehow I became a life long Denver Broncos fan and if I saw Raiders quarterback Jay Schroeder on the street, Iâ€™d boo him in real life.
All through the 80s Iâ€™d rage at The StarPhoenix sports desk for never posting the west coast scores of key Broncos games and would have to go downtown to the main library to find a â€œreal paperâ€ to find out the score (real paper was always the New York Times who hated their sports desk and make them stay up late so they could publish the west coast scores or USA Today who probably felt the same way). Â I hated the sports broadcasting of first 650 CKOM and then C95 for only occasionally mentioning the occasional NFL score which ignoring the important AFC West games. (important as in Broncos scores)
Yet for some reason this year, Iâ€™ve had enough for a few years now, the cons have been piling up:
- The response to head injuries (read the entire feature on what concussions did to former Steeler great Mike WebsterÂ to see what playing in the NFL does to players)
- The league pressuring cities in the middle of bad economic times to spend to build new buildings for owners or their franchise will move to Los Angeles (see Oakland, Minnesota, New Orleans (before the Hurricane) andÂ Jacksonville)
- The leagueâ€™s nonprofit status and how they manipulate and abuse local cities to pay for insane things for the Super BowlÂ (donâ€™t click on that link, it will just make you angry)
- Turning a blind eye to the reliance on drugs (PEDs and otherwise) which going crazy over pot. (the NFL is soft on HGH but is ten times tougher on pot then the IOC)
- Finally it was the Ray Rice incident and the reality for me that the NFL condones violence against women. Â 21 of 32 NFL teams employed a player with a domestic or sexual violence charge on their record last year. Commissioner Roger Goodell said back in 2012 that he wanted to get serious about domestic violence. Â In 2014 he gave a two game suspension to Ray Rice while victimizing his fiancee (and now wife) by having her tell her version of events in front of the man that abused her.
The worst part of the Ray Rice thing was that well respected GM of the Baltimore Ravens suggested that Riceâ€™s wife was to blame and the Ravens Twitter account even tweeted out her apology. Â An apology apparently for being violently hit? Â The NFL could have also demanded to see the video (â€œumm, Ray you are suspended until we see all of the sealed evidenceâ€) and it isnâ€™t as if the first videos of Janay Rice laying on the floor of the elevator and Ray Rice kicking her lifeless body to the side wasnâ€™t horrible enough. Â If you havenâ€™t seen it, it made me sick to watch it.
No, something is wrong at the NFL. Â Roger Goodell is a big part of the problem. Â He was going to be the new sheriff that was going to clean up the league and protect the â€œshieldâ€. Â Instead he became obsessed over pot (which is not a performance enhancing drug) which ignoring the bigger issue why so many NFL players are violent towards women, in a league that is trying to aggressively market itself towards women.
In fact, a lower percentage of NFL players are violent towards women than in the general population but because of wealth, status and a stable of high priced lawyers most of those charged, get away without penalty (the worst example of all time is boxer Floyd Mayweather – donâ€™t read this link unless you have some time to get angry). Â The other issue is for a NFL player, what constitutes a jury of their peers. Â Many people on that jury cheered for him, wore his jersey, and was a fan of the team he was on. Â The league is stuck trying to penalize itâ€™s players. Â Of course by handing out ridiculous penalties for pot use or for dog violence, you would expect them to give out severe penalties for violently hitting a women. Â Nope, those are the lenient penalties which both reflect a problem with the league and society in general.
So yeah, I am fed up with the NFL. Â I still love football. Â Mark is trying out as a linebacker for the Bedford RoadÂ
RedmenÂ errÂ RedBlacksÂ err Red Hawks. Â There is the NCAA, the CIS, or if forced to watch it, the CFL. Â Iâ€™ll still have football but unless there are some serious reforms in the NFL, I am done. Â How do I say to Mark and Oliver that it is never ever okay to hit a women and then sit down and turn on the NFL which condones violence against women.
Itâ€™s been a great 26 years of being a diehard Denver Broncos fan but enough is enough. Â Roger Goodell has to go and until something changes, Iâ€™m out of here.
Just watch this. Â It doesnâ€™t matter whether you like sports or not, you just need to watch it. Â The bad news is that this kind of attitude goes beyond football, if you doubt me, read this sickening account of Floyd Mayweather that Deadspin published.
While it remains impossible to open a window into a personâ€™s soul to see whether the poison of racism resides there, it is possible to screen those whose words and actions suggest that they harbor such beliefs.
Donald Sterlingâ€™s words and actions suggest that he does. And the evidence existed long before TMZ published its tape of his voice.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Sterling agreed in 2009 to a $2.765 million settlement of charges that he discriminated against African-Americans and others at an apartment building he owned. The Times also reports that a lawsuit filed in 2003 accused Sterling of saying â€œHispanics smoke, drink and just hang around the building,â€ and that â€œblack tenants smell and attract vermin.â€ The case was resolved with a confidential settlement, but Sterling reportedly paid $5 million in legal fees to the plaintiffs.
Amazingly, those claims and the settlements of those claims generated little or no publicity or scorn of Sterling. If an NFL owner were accused of such conduct, the mere allegations would become major national news. If an NFL owner ever settled a case involving such allegations, the league office undoubtedly would be forced to take decisive action or face strong contentions of the existence of a double standard.
Itâ€™s all the more reason for the NFL to treat this occasion as the catalyst for ensuring that its house â€” specifically, its 32 houses â€” are in order. Existing owners should be warned clearly about the potential consequences of such conduct. Potential owners should be screened even more carefully to determine that they have done or said nothing that would suggest that their hearts are rotten with racism or other qualities that could result in their wealth and power being used to violate the rights of others.
Per a league source, NFL owners already expect Commissioner Roger Goodell to address the situation in some way at the next ownership meetings in May.
Itâ€™s often impossible to get to the truth of a personâ€™s attitudes regarding matters of race. But the Sterling situation underscores the importance of taking all reasonably available steps to ensure that the countryâ€™s biggest sports business is doing business with people who have not only the wealth to assume such an important responsibility, but also the character.
Hey look, they just got their butts handed to them by the Toydaria Wattos.
Cutting football was the best move this college ever made
Six years ago, Michael Sorrell made a decision that threatened his reputation and maybe his job.
His tenure as president of Paul Quinn College started in 2007 and, shortly thereafter, he opted to cut football in an effort to save money.
The response on campus was not pleasant.
“Predictably, we had folks who were, I guess, the reaction was loud,” Sorrell says.
This was in football-nuts Dallas, only seven miles from the heart of the city. Sorrell was not anti-sports, either. He played basketball and loved football. He just felt the sport was “something economically we could not justify.”
Sorrell made an offer to the angry defenders of the sport: Raise $2 million to save football, and he would match it.
“To date,” Sorrell says, “no one has raised a dollar.”
College football is dealing with an emerging financial crisis. It’s plaguing programs as large as the University of Tennessee, which was a reported $200 million in debt over the summer, and as small as Grambling, which is begging alums for donations after poor facilities led to a player mutiny earlier this month. Escalating coaches’ salaries and declining attendance have led to real concern that the entire college football complex will become insolvent, leaving only a few schools with thriving programs.
“We are standing on the precipice of an economic day of reckoning in higher education,” Sorrell says. “I think there will be more schools to do this. I think we’re just early.”
Football was eating $600,000 of Sorrell’s budget, and Paul Quinn is a tiny school of only 250 students. How could he continue to educate when so much funding was going to something that wasn’t building an academic reputation?
He simply couldn’t. So the field sat vacant.
Sorrell moved on to a much bigger issue: his school is located in a food desert with neither a restaurant nor a grocery store nearby, and many of the students at the oldest historically black college west of the Mississippi are poor. Eighty percent of the students at Paul Quinn are Pell Grant-eligible. (There’s a “clothes closet” on campus where students can get business casualwear for free, and money had to be raised so students could afford eyeglasses to read.)
A year after the end of football, Sorrell was meeting with a real estate investor named Trammell Crow. They bandied about the idea of devoting a tract of land to producing food for the community. But where?
Sorrell joked that they should just build a farm on the football field.
The jest quickly turned into a reality, and the school’s future was changed for the better.
Some of the produce grown in full view of the scoreboard would go to local food banks and the surrounding community. Some of it, eventually, could be sold.
Last year was a busy one for public giveaways to the National Football League. In Virginia, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, who styles himself as a budget-slashing conservative crusader, took $4 million from taxpayersâ€™ 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 Redskinsâ€™ owner, Dan Snyder, has a net worth estimated by Forbes at $1 billion. But even billionaires like to receive expensive gifts.
Taxpayers in Hamilton County, Ohio, which includes Cincinnati, were hit with a bill for $26 million in debt service for the stadiums where the NFLâ€™s Bengals and Major League Baseballâ€™s Reds play, plus another $7 million to cover the direct operating costs for the Bengalsâ€™ field. Pro-sports subsidies exceeded the $23.6 million that the county cut from health-and-human-services spending in the current two-year budget (and represent a sizable chunk of the $119 million cut from Hamilton County schools). Press materials distributed by the Bengals declare that the team gives back about $1 million annually to Ohio community groups. Sound generous? Thatâ€™s about 4 percent of the public subsidy the Bengals receive annually from Ohio taxpayers.
In Minnesota, the Vikings wanted a new stadium, and were vaguely threatening to decamp to another state if they didnâ€™t get it. The Minnesota legislature, facing a $1.1 billion budget deficit, extracted $506 million from taxpayers as a gift to the team, covering roughly half the cost of the new facility. Some legislators argued that the Vikings should reveal their finances: privately held, the team is not required to disclose operating data, despite the public subsidies it receives. In the end, the Minnesota legislature folded, giving away public money without the Vikingsâ€™ disclosing information in return. The teamâ€™s principal owner, Zygmunt Wilf, had a 2011 net worth estimated at $322 million; with the new stadium deal, the Vikingsâ€™ value rose about $200 million, by Forbesâ€™s estimate, further enriching Wilf and his family. They will make a token annual payment of $13 million to use the stadium, keeping the lionâ€™s share of all NFL ticket, concession, parking, and, most important, television revenues.
After approving the $506 million handout, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said, â€œIâ€™m not one to defend the economics of professional sports â€¦ Any deal you make in that world doesnâ€™t make sense from the way the rest of us look at it.â€ Even by the standards of political pandering, Daytonâ€™s irresponsibility was breathtaking.
In California, the City of Santa Clara broke ground on a $1.3 billion stadium for the 49ers. Officially, the deal includes $116 million in public funding, with private capital making up the rest. At least, thatâ€™s the way the deal was announced. A new government entity, the Santa Clara Stadium Authority, is borrowing $950 million, largely from a consortium led by Goldman Sachs, to provide the majority of the â€œprivateâ€ financing. Who are the board members of the Santa Clara Stadium Authority? The members of the Santa Clara City Council. In effect, the city of Santa Clara is providing most of the â€œprivateâ€ funding. Should something go wrong, taxpayers will likely take the hit.
The 49ers will pay Santa Clara $24.5 million annually in rent for four decades, which makes the deal, from the teamâ€™s standpoint, a 40-year loan amortized at less than 1 percent interest. At the time of the agreement, 30-year Treasury bonds were selling for 3 percent, meaning the Santa Clara contract values the NFL as a better risk than the United States government.
Although most of the capital for the new stadium is being underwritten by the public, most football revenue generated within the facility will be pocketed by Denise DeBartolo York, whose net worth is estimated at $1.1 billion, and members of her family. York took control of the team in 2000 from her brother, Edward DeBartolo Jr., after he pleaded guilty to concealing an extortion plot by a former governor of Louisiana. Brother and sister inherited their money from their father, Edward DeBartolo Sr., a shopping-mall developer who became one of the nationâ€™s richest men before his death in 1994. A generation ago, the DeBartolos made their money the old-fashioned way, by hard work in the free market. Today, the familyâ€™s wealth rests on political influence and California tax subsidies. Nearly all NFL franchises are family-owned, converting public subsidies and tax favors into high living for a modern-day feudal elite.
Pro-football coaches talk about accountability and self-reliance, yet pro-football owners routinely binge on giveaways and handouts. A year after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the Saints resumed hosting NFL games: justifiably, a national feel-good story. The finances were another matter. Taxpayers have, in stages, provided about $1 billion to build and later renovate what is now known as the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. (All monetary figures in this article have been converted to 2013 dollars.) The Saintsâ€™ owner, Tom Benson, whose net worth Forbes estimates at $1.2 billion, keeps nearly all revenue from ticket sales, concessions, parking, and broadcast rights. Taxpayers even footed the bill for the addition of leather stadium seats with cup holders to cradle the drinks they are charged for at concession stands. And corporate welfare for the Saints doesnâ€™t stop at stadium construction and renovation costs. Though Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal claims to be an anti-spending conservative, each year the state of Louisiana forcibly extracts up to $6 million from its residentsâ€™ pockets and gives the cash to Benson as an â€œinducement paymentâ€â€”the actual term usedâ€”to keep Benson from developing a wandering eye.
In NFL city after NFL city, this pattern is repeated. 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). Average people are taxed to fund Allenâ€™s private-jet lifestyle.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, winners of six Super Bowls, the most of any franchise, play at Heinz Field, a glorious stadium that opens to a view of the serenely flowing Ohio and Allegheny Rivers. Pennsylvania taxpayers contributed about $260 million to help build Heinz Fieldâ€”and to retire debt from the Steelersâ€™ previous stadium. Most game-day revenues (including television fees) go to the Rooney family, the majority owner of the team. The teamâ€™s owners also kept the $75 million that Heinz paid to name the facility.
Judith Grant Long, a Harvard University professor of urban planning, calculates that league-wide, 70 percent of the capital cost of NFL stadiums has been provided by taxpayers, not NFL owners. Many cities, counties, and states also pay the stadiumsâ€™ ongoing costs, by providing power, sewer services, other infrastructure, and stadium improvements. When ongoing costs are added, Longâ€™s research finds, the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, San Diego Chargers, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Tennessee Titans have turned a profit on stadium subsidies aloneâ€”receiving more money from the public than they needed to build their facilities. Longâ€™s estimates show that just three NFL franchisesâ€”the New England Patriots, New York Giants, and New York Jetsâ€”have paid three-quarters or more of their stadium capital costs.
Many NFL teams have also cut sweetheart deals to avoid taxes. The futuristic new field where the Dallas Cowboys play, with its 80,000 seats, go-go dancers on upper decks, and built-in nightclubs, has been appraised at nearly $1 billion. At the basic property-tax rate of Arlington, Texas, where the stadium is located, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones would owe at least $6 million a year in property taxes. Instead he receives no property-tax bill, so Tarrant County taxes the property of average people more than it otherwise would.
In his office at 345 Park Avenue in Manhattan, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell must smile when Texas exempts the Cowboysâ€™ stadium from taxes, or the governor of Minnesota bows low to kiss the feet of the NFL. The National Football League is about two things: producing high-quality sports entertainment, which it does very well, and exploiting taxpayers, which it also does very well. Goodell should knowâ€”his pay, about $30 million in 2011, flows from an organization that does not pay corporate taxes.
Thatâ€™s rightâ€”extremely profitable and one of the most subsidized organizations in American history, the NFL also enjoys tax-exempt status. On paper, it is the Nonprofit Football League.
This situation came into being in the 1960s, when Congress granted antitrust waivers to what were then the National Football League and the American Football League, allowing them to merge, conduct a common draft, and jointly auction television rights. The merger was good for the sport, stabilizing pro football while ensuring quality of competition. But Congress gave away the store to the NFL while getting almost nothing for the public in return.
The 1961 Sports Broadcasting Act was the first piece of gift-wrapped legislation, granting the leagues legal permission to conduct television-broadcast negotiations in a way that otherwise would have been price collusion. Then, in 1966, Congress enacted Public Law 89â€‘800, which broadened the limited antitrust exemptions of the 1961 law. Essentially, the 1966 statute said that if the two pro-football leagues of that era mergedâ€”they would complete such a merger four years later, forming the current NFLâ€”the new entity could act as a monopoly regarding television rights. Apple or ExxonMobil can only dream of legal permission to function as a monopoly: the 1966 law was effectively a license for NFL owners to print money. Yet this sweetheart deal was offered to the NFL in exchange only for its promise not to schedule games on Friday nights or Saturdays in autumn, when many high schools and colleges play football.
Public Law 89-800 had no nameâ€”unlike, say, the catchy USA Patriot Act or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Congress presumably wanted the bill to be low-profile, given that its effect was to increase NFL ownersâ€™ wealth at the expense of average people.
While Public Law 89-800 was being negotiated with congressional leaders, NFL lobbyists tossed in the sort of obscure provision that is the essence of the lobbyistâ€™s art. The phrase or professional football leagues was added to Section 501(c)6 of 26 U.S.C., the Internal Revenue Code. Previously, a sentence in Section 501(c)6 had granted not-for-profit status to â€œbusiness leagues, chambers of commerce, real-estate boards, or boards of trade.â€ Since 1966, the code has read: â€œbusiness leagues, chambers of commerce, real-estate boards, boards of trade, or professional football leagues.â€
The insertion of professional football leagues into the definition of not-for-profit organizations was a transparent sellout of public interest. This decision has saved the NFL uncounted millions in tax obligations, which means that ordinary people must pay higher taxes, public spending must decline, or the national debt must increase to make up for the shortfall. Nonprofit status applies to the NFLâ€™s headquarters, which administers the league and its all-important television contracts. Individual teams are for-profit and presumably pay income taxesâ€”though because all except the Green Bay Packers are privately held and do not disclose their finances, itâ€™s impossible to be sure.