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 #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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