91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Rams are moving – and you're picking up the tab

nfl football on field
Flickr user Parker Anderson

This week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the Rams would be allowed to move from St. Louis back to Los Angeles. I realize you might not care, but you should, because we’re the ones paying for it – again. 

Two weeks ago, three NFL teams – the San Diego Chargers, the Oakland Raiders and the St. Louis Rams – all bid to move their teams to Los Angeles. The nation’s second-biggest city hasn’t had a team since the Rams left for St. Louis in 1995, while Green Bay has supported its team since 1919. That should tell you how much Los Angeles really needs an NFL team. Not at all.

After Goodell set up a shameless contest designed to make Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis dance like rummies for quarters to keep their teams, he  announced the St. Louis Rams were the lucky winners of the L.A. sweepstakes.

Now, when multimillionaires threaten to move their toys across the country, who cares? And, honestly, I don’t. After all, the Oakland Raiders have already moved to L.A. and back. The Cardinals moved from Chicago to St. Louis to Arizona. The Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore, so now Cleveland has a bunch of guys who dress up like football players and call themselves the Browns. (The only major league American city that has never lost a team is, yes, Detroit. The Lions might be the only NFL team to miss the Super Bowl every single year, but the Fords have never threatened to move the team.)

None of this makes sense unless you’re a shameless, greedy owner trying to make a buck – or trying to get a bunch of broke cities to give you one. 

So why does it matter? Because we’re subsidizing their game, by the billions –  a game they’ve rigged so only they can win. According to Judith Grant Long, a professor at the University of Michigan, the United States is home to more than 120 major league baseball, football, basketball, and hockey rinks, arenas, parks, and stadiums. The teams that play there have received taxpayer subsidies totaling $21.3 billion. That’s billion, with a b—and only two of those stadiums have made a profit for those taxpayers. 

The taxpayers’ willingness to pay those subsidies helps explain why 99 of those stadiums have been built since 1990. Americans – and only Americans – have entered the era of the disposable stadium.

It doesn’t have to be this way. And in Canada, it isn’t. Canadians don’t pay for their stadiums. The teams do, which kind of makes sense. Canadian taxpayers instead pay for their schools, which also makes sense. Guess whose students are ranked in the top five, way ahead of American students? Taking candy from a baby may be immoral, but taking money from students and giving it to billionaire franchise owners should be illegal.

Who orchestrates this fraud? Why, Roger Goodell, of course, who made $44 million in 2014. Not bad for the leader of a non-profit organization.

Yes, you heard me correctly. The NFL shamelessly filed for non-profit status back in 1942. More amazingly, the government granted it – which makes you wonder who, exactly, would not qualify as a non-profit?

The NFL finally dropped its non-profit status last year, but not due to some long dormant sense of decency. They were simply tired of reporting Goodell’s ungodly salary every year.  If you need proof that an organization wasn’t really a non-profit in the first place, watching them drop their non-profit status to hide their unseemly salaries is all the proof you need.

So, what now? L.A. will roll out the red carpet for its latest NFL team, while San Diego and Oakland will hi-jack their cities for stadiums they don’t need, and can’t afford. The money will come out of the pockets of schoolchildren.

Why should fans be loyal to teams that clearly aren’t loyal to them? If those taxpayers build stadiums for owners who have no reservation about leaving them behind, the taxpayers need to admit they’re in an abusive relationship.

But that seems to be the NFL’s specialty.  

John U. Bacon has worked nearly three decades as a writer, a public speaker, and a college instructor, winning awards for all three.