By Ken Reed

The disturbing situation of multi-billionaire pro sports owners demanding that local taxpayers fund — or at least partially fund — new sparkling sport palaces in which the team’s value can appreciate and owners can become even wealthier continues unabated.

The new owner of the Washington Commanders, Josh Harris, a multibillionaire worth $7.69 billion, according to Bloomberg, is but the latest super wealthy sports franchise owner to seek public money to build a new sports palace. Harris has the added advantage of having politicians in three locations (Washington DC, Virginia and Maryland) lining up to court him.

Last year, the billionaire owners of the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills, Terry and Kim Pegula, landed $850 million in taxpayer dollars for the construction of a new stadium.

The deal was touted and approved by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and other local and state politicians. It was the largest taxpayer contribution ever for an NFL facility. Once long-term maintenance costs are factored in, the public’s share of the cost of building and operating the new stadium will be more than $1.1 billion.

According to Forbes, the Pegulas have a net worth of $5.8 billion. Nevertheless, they spent months begging local and state politicians for public money to build a new stadium to conduct their private business in.

John Fisher, one of the founders of the Gap stores, is worth $2.5 billion. Nonetheless, he’s pulling Major League Baseball’s A’s out of Oakland — scoffing at 55 years of history and tradition in the Bay Area in order to get public money from politicians in Nevada to build a fancy new stadium on the Las Vegas strip.

Politicians are crafty in how they go about giving handouts to wealthy franchise owners. It’s not just the direct payments for building the stadium facility. City politicians are forgoing real estate taxes, spending money on land and infrastructure improvements for pro sports owners, and absorbing interest costs on public bonds, among other handout methods.

Collectively, these handouts have been called “The Sports Tax” that citizens – sports fans or not — are forced to pay.

Unfortunately, that “Sports Tax” continues to get bigger and bigger for Americans across the country.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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