By Ken Reed

It’s interesting to note that in a capitalist society, in which team owners tout the free market whenever they can, it’s a corporate welfare system — most notably taxpayer-financed sports stadiums and arenas — that is serving to increase the wealth of pro sports owners in America.

“Ironically, it [taxpayer financing of sports venues] is a reverse type of socialism that redistributes wealth upward,” says sports sociologist D. Stanley Eitzen. “Yet owners, civic boosters, editorial writers, and politicians who spend much of their time defending capitalism and the free market support it unabashedly and uncritically.”

Sports economist Robert A. Baade calls it the Reverse Robin Hood Effect, “taking from the poor, the near poor, the working class, and the middle classes and giving to the rich.”
Dave Zirin, a sports journalist and activist, put it very succinctly — and accurately. “In the United States, we socialize the debt of sports and privatize the profits.”

I’ve never seen anybody lay out the case against sports welfare better than Patrick Hruby recently did in a piece posted on the excellent new website Sports On Earth. In his well-researched article, “Let’s Eliminate Sports Welfare,” Hruby methodically goes through recent stadium deals in which taxpayers are soaked in order to bolster private franchise owners’ wallets.

Eliminating sports welfare can be — and should be — a bipartisan issue.

“By ending Sports Welfare, Democrats could make plutocratic team owners and other wealthy sports interests pay a fairer share, while Republicans could cut government expenditures, simplify the tax code and increase revenues without explicitly raising taxes,” writes Hruby in his Sports on Earth article. “An obvious win-win, except for the fact that … our duly elected officials don’t seem to care.”

It’s time they start.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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