Director of League of Fans
Before the Committee on Finance and Revenue
District of Columbia City Council
June 12, 2003
Chairman Evans and Members of the Committee my name is Shawn McCarthy, thank you for the opportunity to speak today regarding the “Ballpark Revenue Amendment Act of 2003.”
I work in Ralph Nader’s office as director of a project called League of Fans, an effort designed to increase awareness of the sports industry’s relationship to society and to encourage government institutions to act responsibly — in the interest of their citizens — when dealing with the sports industry.
Unfortunately for the citizens of Washington D.C., Mayor Williams has entangled himself in an egregious corporate welfare plan for a stadium that would benefit narrow business interests at the expense of D.C.’s taxpayers and the services for which their hard-earned tax dollars are supposed to support. As with other forms of corporate welfare, these negotiations with Major League Baseball are predicated on pitting cities against each other in bidding contests that are structurally biased in favor of Big Business, in this case Major League Baseball.
Mr. Chairman, I am a sports fan who has paid close attention to the stadium deals that have taken place across the country over the past decade. I have watched professional sports leagues and individual owners manipulate cities into heavily-subsidizing them at the expense of daily human needs and public necessities.
As a sports fan I feel sick and used by all of this. Owners have taken advantage of the popularity of sports and the loyalty of sports fans like myself, using us as ammunition against the cities where we live. Here in D.C., the favorite for ownership is Fred Malek and his Washington Baseball Club, worth $3 billion. The Washington Baseball Club is currently trying to get baseball fans and others to buy into their exaggerations and misinformation about the costs and benefits of a stadium and team — however great the actual costs to the city and however great the actual benefits to Malek and company.
As part owner of the Texas Rangers along with George W. Bush and several other investors, Mr. Malek gained his expertise in stadium shakedowns. In 1991, his ownership group demanded that Arlington, Texas taxpayers give them $135 million to finance a new stadium while threatening to move the team if Arlington refused to pay the ransom. After the stadium was built and the Rangers’ value had tripled as a result of the taxpayer subsidies, Malek’s group sold the team. Another one of Malek’s former ownership partners with the Rangers, William DeWitt, Jr. now heads a group that owns the St. Louis Cardinals and is threatening to move that team if taxpayers don’t pay for a new stadium. Mr. Malek has the same ownership pedigree and will never be in this for Washington D.C. or its sports fans.
Mayor Williams appeared on Capitol Hill last week, where he predicted a loss of residents, businesses and jobs for the District and asked for hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid after closing the $457 million budget gap, largely through slashed city services. The next day, the General Accounting Office issued a discouraging report that found a cycle in which the heavily indebted District neglects important improvements in public schools, health, safety, and transit, while fighting the loss of residents and businesses.
What state of affairs have we come to when the D.C. government’s neglect is highlighted by a Congressional study as Mayor Williams dangles $339 million in front of a monopoly sports league and billionaire potential franchise owners? It is a state of affairs in which public agencies have become beholden to private power.
I hope that this committee and the City Council as a whole resist such irresponsibility.
I’d like to thank the committee again for the opportunity to speak today.
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon