By Ken Reed
After having to fork over millions (and eventually billions) in a couple of the latest taxpayer-financed stadium scams, the owners of the Minnesota Vikings and Miami Marlins are showing their gratitude by telling fans, “It’s time to get screwed again.”
Vikings owners Zigi and Mark Wilf are attempting to make their most loyal fans, season-ticket holders, pay a “personal seat license” (PSL) fee — basically, requiring a big chunk of change for the right to purchase season tickets — to help lessen the amount the Wilfs will have to pay on the new stadium. Minnesota taxpayers are already being fleeced for $498 million to build a shiny new palace for the Wilfs to make gobs of money in. However, that’s not enough for the Wilfs. Now they want to tap season-ticket holders for millions more via personal seat licenses.
Minnesota governor Mark Dayton, the Wilf’s biggest cheerleader during the stadium scheming process, is now trying to reinvent himself as a fans’ advocate. In a letter to the Wilf’s, Dayton said he strongly disagrees with “shifting any part of the team’s responsibility for those [stadium] costs onto Minnesota Vikings fans. This Private Contribution is your responsibility, not theirs.” He said he’s opposed to the new Vikings’ stadium becoming a “Rich People’s Stadium” instead of the “People’s Stadium.”
Nice sentiments Governor, and right on, but why did you sign the stadium deal earlier this year that gave the Wilfs the right to do PSLs? Don’t you remember doing that? Back when you were in the owners’ pocket? The PSL issue was even covered in legislative testimony before you signed the deal. Why were you silent then Governor? And if you’re going to all of sudden be a fans’ advocate, why stop at the PSL issue? How about calling out the Wilfs for forcing season-ticket holders to buy tickets to two meaningless exhibition games every year? Or for the obscene concession prices they charge at Vikings games?
The situation is even uglier in Miami, where Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has just completed a massive fire sale, trading virtually all the team’s best players for a group of misfits and a couple bags of balls. In the salary dump, Loria will pocket $100 million or more in savings. Salary dumps are a traditional slap in the face to loyal fans but this case is especially egregious because Miami taxpayers just built Loria a shiny new stadium last year (about $500 million of the $600 million stadium cost will come from taxpayers … make that about $2.4 billion out of taxpayer pockets by the time the bonds are paid off in 40 years or so, as Patrick Hruby points out in an excellent piece at Sports on Earth.
“It should not be permitted to happen,” writes Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote today. ”Loria has a moral obligation to the county, city and taxpayers who substantially built the stadium for him. He has an obligation to the fans who were promised consistent competitive spending and now feel fleeced, duped.”
Of course it shouldn’t be permitted to happen. But there’s nothing anybody can do about it because as a country we’ve seen fit to allow pro sports leagues to operate as unregulated cartels. Basically, the owners can do whatever they want.
In the ’70′s, Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley tried a Loria-like fire sale with his team. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn stepped in and disallowed a good portion of Finley’s moves, utilizing his “best interests of the game” clause. Well, MLB owners got rid of the last real commissioner, Fay Vincent, and put an owner’s puppet in his place, Bud Selig. Selig’s one-and-only-job is to help owners profit-at-all-costs. You can be sure that Selig won’t be stepping in to nullify Loria’s trades. Loria can stick it to Miami fans and taxpayers all he wants.
Loria has no shame. Neither do the Wilfs. Or the vast majority of their fellow pro sports barons.
There’s only one way out of this mess: the community ownership model of the Green Bay Packers. The Packers are owned by the fans, the local community. What a great concept….
Unfortunately, the NFL has formally banned any additional ownership models like the Packers’. MLB and the NBA have informally followed suit.
As fans, we’re all screwed … unless we collectively fight to change the very structure of pro sports in this country.
– Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Terri Lakowski
29 Apr 2014
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Jim Baugh
16 Jan 2014
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Brian Kitts
12 Nov 2013
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Paul Busch
9 Oct 2013
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Chuck Wilson
17 Sep 2013
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Tom McMillen
5 Aug 2013
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Sab Singh
13 Jun 2013
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Joseph Siprut
11 Apr 2013
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Fred Bowen
20 Feb 2013
Q & A with Legendary Sportswriter Frank Deford
27 Jan 2013
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Brenda VanLengen
28 Dec 2012
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Diana Cutaia
1 Nov 2012
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Patrick Hruby
28 Sep 2012
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Allen Sack
8 Aug 2012
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Donna Lopiano
5 Jun 2012
Q’s & A’s with Jim Thompson
14 May 2012
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Activists: Dave Zirin
18 Apr 2012
Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Activists: William Dowling
27 Mar 2012
Q’s & A’s with Notable Sports Figures: Taylor Branch
9 Mar 2012
Q’s & A’s with Notable Sports Figures – Joe Nocera
27 Feb 2012
- Q’s & A’s with Leading Sports Reformers: Terri Lakowski
Special FeaturesFrom League of Fans
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to encourage social & civic responsibility in sports industry & culture. See League of Fans Core Principles
Petition from Baseball Fans Everywhere To Mariano Rivera
April 6, 2013League of Fans Calls for More Humanistic Coaching Programs. Click here to see the release.
League of Fans Announces 2012 “Sport At Its Best” Awards
December 20, 2011 Click here to read the news release and report on Ralph Nader's Call for Budding Sports Reformers
December 7, 2011 Click here to read the news release and report on Ralph Nader's Claim that Sports Media Are Dropping the Ball on Social, Cultural, and Economic Issues in Sports
November 22, 2011 Click here to read the news release and report on the campaign to Make the NCAA Live Up to Its Stated Purpose
October 26, 2011 Click here to read the news release and report on the campaign to create a National Sports Commission
October 11, 2011 Click here to read the news release and report on the campaign to Ensure Equal Opportunity in Sports for all Americans
September 21, 2011 Click here to read the news release and report on putting the "Youth" back into "Youth Sports"
September 8, 2011 Click here to read the news release and report on the campaign to abolish the BCS and Establish a College Football Playoff
August 25, 2011
Read the news release and report on Mandatory Implementation of King-Devick Concussion Test in High School and Youth Sports
August 11, 2011
Click here to read the report and news release and about the campaign to promote sports and physical education for all students
Read the news release and report on Campaign to Promote Humanistic Coaching Education Programs
July 13, 2011
Read the news release and report on the Push For Community Ownership in Professional Sports
June 24, 2011
Read the news release and report and Sports Manifesto on Re-Launch of League of Fans
March 24, 2011
NCAA's Reaction to League of Fans' Proposal
March 29, 2011
League of Fans' Response to NCAA
March 25, 2011
League of Fans Proposes Eliminating Athletic Scholarships to Help Restore Integrity on College Campuses
League of Fans is a project of the Center for Study of Responsive Law.