League of Fans

Founded by Ralph Nader, League of Fans is a sports reform project working to improve sports by increasing awareness of the sports industry's relationship to society, exposing irresponsible business practices, ensuring accountability to fans, and encouraging the industry to contribute to societal well-being.

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League of Fans is motivated by people, just like you, who are upset with what has become of our sports and would like to make a difference. We work with concerned citizens, sports fans, civic groups and communities to increase awareness of the sports industry's relationship to society, influence a broad range of issues in sports at all levels and encourage the cooperative capacities that make the "sports powers-that-be" capable of helping, not just dominating, our society and culture.

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We often think of sports as outside the realm of everyday citizen concern. But the many benefits to society that sports can provide are sometimes undermined by a different set of values, often based on the quest for higher and higher profits at the expense of fans, taxpayers, communities, culture and social justice.

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Ralph Nader's letter to Boston Red Sox owner John Harrington opposing his plans to replace Fenway Park

Mr. John L. Harrington
Chief Executive Officer
Boston Red Sox
4 Yawkey Way
Boston, MA 02215

Dear Mr. Harrington,

How long will your push for a new ballpark continue? There are far too many obstacles to overcome for this debacle to be rescued, not to mention the rightful claims of hardworking taxpayers to more appropriate uses of their tax dollars. Despite your enormous lobbying campaign at City Hall and on Beacon Hill and your use of Red Sox fans for your personal objectives, the truth about this corporate welfare project is finally beginning to reach the public.

In your repeated pleas to Red Sox fans for active support in the stadium scheme, you boast about the amount of private money to be used for the project by stating, "We will put more private dollars into the new ballpark than any sports team in history has put into its facility." At the same time, you are asking for one of the largest public handouts for a stadium in U.S. history. When will you respect the fans enough to realize that they are also taxpayers who can recognize a bad deal when they see one?

As the main promoter for this deal, you tell everyone that time is a critical factor for the stadium project because the state legislative session will end July 31st. What's the big hurry? Do you have a problem with the democratic process? It is ever more obvious that there is a reason why you don't want the citizens or politicians to learn too much about what they want before signing on. From time to time, it's good to think things through before impulsively giving away public funds. And before giving at least $275 million to you, it would be beneficial for the city of Boston, Commonwealth of Massachusetts and their citizens to respect the democratic process which was put there for good reasons. Everyone knows not to sign on the dotted line when being pressured by the salesman. Is it wrong to raise questions about your windfalls when taking money from public funds in a city where the needs exceed the supply and when too few questions were raised prior to the Big Dig boondoggle?

Following the lead of other owners and stadium proponents around the country, you cloak your taxpayer-soaking scheme with promises that the public will get a return on its investment. But it is a fact that no government has ever recovered its investment on a baseball stadium, let alone seen any returns on that investment. Any economist outside the employment of a sports franchise will tell you that this project, probably the most expensive stadium project ever, will be no different.

Instead of trying to broker a backroom deal to get money to destroy a national treasure like Fenway Park and fund an imposter stadium, you should use those private funds that you've been publicizing and make the needed updates and improvements on Fenway Park. There is no need to use public funds to acquire 15 acres of expensive land through an illegal eminent domain plan when you already have the most wonderful place in America to watch a baseball game. It's time to quit ignoring the various plans for renovation by immediately concluding that renovation can't be done. It certainly can be done, and at a much less expensive cost than your stadium plan. There is nothing that a new stadium can provide that Fenway Park cannot. More seats, bigger seats, wider aisles, less obstruction of view, more restrooms, better variety of concessions and yes, even some nice new luxury boxes. Take a look at some of these renovation plans and use a little ingenuity, and you'll find that you can make a great palace for the national pastime even better, rather than making yourself into a corporate welfare king.

If you truly believe in the extraordinary relationship between the Red Sox and the community that has made the franchise so special, then you can surely respect the virtues of historic preservation and its benefits to society. Preservation is good business and contributes much to the quality of our lives. Fenway Park is a perfect example, as it maintains a link with Boston's past and connects the citizens with the experiences of the people who came before them, in turn giving us a better understanding of our connectedness. When such an amazing place as Fenway Park is destroyed, all the lessons that it has offered are forgotten and lost. Would your conscience be clear as you repay this great ballpark by taking a wrecking ball to it? No person has any right to perform such a demolition for personal gain. You don't need a new stadium filled with a more corporate audience to win a World Series, and you don't need to close out the real fans in the process. The people of the Fenway neighborhood have banded together to oppose your plans for their homes and small businesses, and fought alongside the coalition of citizen groups committed to save Fenway Park. If you believe that Boston and the taxpaying fans of the community are as special as you say, then you must help Fenway Park to a future as long and magnificent as its past.


Ralph Nader