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
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
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Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
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.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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