• Sumo

By Ken Reed

I have a new team to hate: the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Chargers left 55-years of history and fan loyalty to move up the coast to Los Angeles, solely because LA represents a bigger market. Never mind that the Chargers will be way down the pecking order in terms of fan and media interest in LA. The news of the Chargers move to LA didn’t even get a front-page headline in the Los Angeles Times. Moreover, sports fans in LA simply let out a collective yawn in response to the news.

Of course, I have to share my hate. The other target of my wrath is the Las Vegas Raiders, a team that’s now left one of the most loyal fan bases (Oakland) a couple times for greener pastures.

Jonah Keri has written an excellent article about the Chargers’ move to LA. He does a good job explaining why franchise free agency and taxpayer welfare for pro sports team owners is wrong and why it should irk all Americans, regardless of political affiliation.

“All of that leaves aside the broader moral dubiousness that comes with lining the pockets of America’s wealthiest individuals,” writes Keri.

“Ponder the notion of taxpayer welfare for sports team owners and you have a rare policy that people on both sides of the political aisle should be able to band together and hate. Conservatives should balk at the fiscal irresponsibility of the enterprise, especially considering the huge debt service that comes with multi-decade stadium financing deals. Liberals should lament all that money going into the pockets of ultra-rich men, instead of to roads, schools or any number of projects that stand to provide a greater benefit to a greater number of people.”

Conservative icon Newt Gingrich has called for public ownership of pro sports teams. It’s an idea that has worked well for the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and F.C. Barcelona, one of the most valuable soccer clubs in the world. This isn’t a radical concept. It’s one that’s used in virtually all industries besides sports. Unfortunately, since the Packers went public, the pro sports leagues have adopted policies that prevent another Green Bay Packers ownership model.

“If Spanos and the NFL wanted to keep the Chargers in San Diego, they could have,” writes Travis Waldron.

“The Spanos family is reportedly worth more than $2 billion, banks that grant loans to extremely wealthy people exist, and the league has its own loan program that would have covered as much as $300 million in construction costs. The $650 million relocation fee Spanos will pay the league is more than enough to cover the supposed funding gap in Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s last-minute effort to keep the team.”

The long-term solution to this profit-at-all-costs (PAAC) problem is community ownership.

“There’s no obvious reason why public ownership — either public ownership by a community, or public ownership by a group of fans — there’s no reason why that shouldn’t work, and the reason for that is basically that we have public corporations all the time run by stockholders,” Victor Matheson, a sports economist at College of the Holy Cross, said.

“And that’s the vast majority of companies in the United States, right? They’re not privately-held companies run by one iron-fisted owner. It’s actually fairly unusual that you have an entire industry dominated only by privately-held corporations like this.”

Congress and the courts have given professional sports leagues unregulated monopoly status in the United States through actions like the antitrust exemption given to Major League Baseball and the Sports Broadcasting Act which allows owners to collude on TV contracts. To avoid more Chargers and Raiders situations, the entire unregulated monopoly structure needs to be knocked down by a bipartisan effort and a community ownership model allowed in all pro sports leagues.

“In the mean time, the best we can do is root for these scams to fail,” writes Keri.

“We can hope that Spanos’ team won’t even fill a soccer stadium that would rank as the 108th largest in college football … We can hope that Angelenos will soundly reject this new band of interlopers. And we can hope that one day, every city will stand up to the greed and lies of sports teams and leagues and reject this never-ending shell game.

“Until then, hold your head high, San Diego. You did the right thing. Good riddance to bad rubbish.”

Well said Mr. Keri.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans

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