While both the NFL owners and players toss an occasional platitude the fans’ way regarding how much they care, everyone realizes that neither side has spent more than a minute or two thinking about the fans’ position in the ongoing NFL lockout.

Sportswriters, sports talk show hosts, and others lament the fact the fans don’t have anyone representing them during discussions between the owners and players.  Fans certainly have a legitimate stake in this fight.  Besides the obvious fact that the fans are the NFL’s consumers, and as such the lifeblood of the business, fans/taxpayers have built stadiums — and the infrastructure surrounding the stadiums — all over the league.  The majority of NFL stadiums should have the corporate name removed in favor of “Taxpayer Stadium.”

It’s clear the fans should have a voice during this dispute between owners and players.  And it’s also clear that publicly-elected government officials should end their silence and get involved in this dispute as well.  On public policy matters, citizens depend on their elected officials to represent them.  Professional sports in general, and the NFL in particular, wouldn’t exist as we know them today without a variety of public policies that have been set in place over the years.  For those that say government shouldn’t have any role in the business of sports, the fact is they already have a huge role in the business of sports.

Sports policy expert Evan Weiner outlines the role of government well in a recent column entitled Fans Don’t Matter in Sports:  “By the way, where are the municipal leaders who lead the rush to get stadiums built for NFL owners (and other sports)?  President Barack Obama has washed his hands of the NFL lockout as has the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Republican Lamar Smith of Texas.  Apparently all elected officials want to stay clear of the NFL lockout despite the fact that the NFL clearly has been built by Congress (the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, the 1966 AFL-NFL merger, the 1984 Cable TV bill that allowed cable operators to bundle channels on a basic tier and forced subscribers to pay for all channels on a basic tier — the tier that became the home to sports — whether the subscribers watch sports programming or not, and the 1986 tax code revision which changed the way municipally funded stadiums and arenas were financed and placed the burden of paying off the debt on taxpayers) and helped along by local elected officials.”

Government certainly has a stake in the business known as the National Football League.  Where’s the pressure from government officials on the owners and players during this lockout mess?  Where are the government officials carrying the “voice of the fan”?

It’s time they come out of hiding.

Ken Reed, Director & Senior Analyst, League of Fans

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