Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 30, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

INSIDE THE NFL....I don't live in Los Angeles, but I live close enough that I can take some civic pride in perhaps the finest show of municipal stubbornness on offer in the nation today: LA's decade-long refusal to spend one thin dime of public money on begging an NFL team to take up residence here.

With that in mind, Scott Gold has a fascinating piece in the LA Times today suggesting that the NFL actually likes this situation just fine. Why? Because with LA looming in the background, teams in other parts of the country have an easier time extorting concessions out of their cities by threatening to move if they don't get what they want. Gold suggests this has been the case in New Orleans, Seattle, Phoenix, and Indianapolis, and while sometimes the LA card is kept in the background, sometimes it's not:

[Indianapolis Colt owner Jim] Irsay's flirtation with Los Angeles was not subtle; at one point he applied for membership at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.

So how long can other NFL clubs keep pulling this Godfather act? Gold says probably not for much longer:

The irony, said Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist and a professor at Smith College in Massachusetts, is that in the end, the NFL probably won't let any of the franchises that have threatened to move actually do it. Zimbalist thinks it more likely that the NFL will add a new team.

Many analysts say the strategy of using Los Angeles for leverage is about to run its course just as communities and government officials are getting wise.

It is virtually certain that no public money, at least in the form of general funds, will go toward building a stadium or renovating an existing one in Los Angeles.

The rest of the nation will then realize that stadium projects can be completed with private money alone, said David Carter, an L.A. sports consultant who has been keenly involved in the effort to get an NFL team back in Southern California.

If that had been clear 10 years ago, team owners would have had no leverage because taxpayers would have called their bluff, Carter said. Instead, he said, "If Southern California goes last, the NFL gets the best of both worlds."

The amount of taxpayer money that the NFL has suckered out of gullible working class sports fans for stadium deals that mostly benefit the ultra-rich is probably enough to save Social Security for the next century. But hey don't let it bother you too much. After all, it's not personal, it's just business. Capiche?

Kevin Drum 2:02 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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