Canceling out Sherrod Brown's vote with mine

Tom Jackson
May 9, 2014


What should taxes be used for? I would argue that subsidizing wealthy sports team owners isn't a legitimate use.

Voters Tuesday in Cuyahoga County approved renewing a "sin tax" to "Keep Cleveland Strong" by using gushers of tax money for the upkeep of the arenas and stadiums where the Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Browns and Cleveland Cavaliers play. I know that Sen. Sherrod Brown voted for it because he said last week, in a conference call with reporters, that he would. I voted against it.

I'm not criticizing the senator for his vote; I'm sympathetic to him and the other folks who supported the issue. My vote was essentially a protest vote, cast knowing that the issue would likely pass by a wide margin.

I am just not willing to subsidize sports team owners.

It's one thing to say that taxes are a necessary evil, because they raise money to pay for national defense, capital improvements and aid to the poor. In reality, a lot of that money is misspent, but it's an argument that I can understand. 

Sports in this country is run by wealthy people, played by wealthy people, and supported by a gusher of private money, including corporate sponsorships and TV revenues. If taxpayers didn't support sports, we'd still have football, baseball and basketball.

Let's call the vote what it is — a form of blackmail. The implied threat is that if the public doesn't pay for sports stadiums, the teams might move to a city that will. The threat doesn't have to be voiced aloud. No one has forgotten when the Browns went to Baltimore.

So yeah, I understand the folks who voted "Yes." They don't want to lose the teams. 

I don't want to lose them either, but I don't think taxes should be used as a form of welfare for people who have enough money to buy an NFL team. There ought to be a law against using tax money to subsidize pro sports, so that cities can't be played off against each other. 



Speaking of taxpayer funded stadium boondoggles, how's Cinci doin' with their mess?

"Cincinnati Stadiums Bury County Government in Debt"

These things are sold as economic development and numerous studies have shown that they are in fact drains on taxpayers.

Like in Europe, prof. teams should be publicly owned by shareholders.


Agree 100% with public ownership of professional sports teams. It works very well for the Green Bay Packers.


Except they don't really own it. They have no equity, nor the right to sell their shares. No one is allowed to own more than 200 shares. It's a fiction.

JT Adams St

Tom, you've got it all wrong. Taxes are bad if they're used to provide food or healthcare to the poor. Taxes are good if they're used to subsidize racist billionaires who want to impress their young girlfriends with their fancy toy.


For one of the very few times..I agree with Contango (and Babo and JT). These billionaires (just like the other billionaires in our country) are milking the system dry along with we everyday Americans. They, single-handedly, are creating an economic class system. They no more deserve or need subsidies than the Oil guys and others who are ALL about profits. Too much money has infiltrated our political system on all levels. That glut of money is/has drowned out the voices of common sense, decency and 98% of we Americans. Our moral obligations and our counties long-term solvency is being pushed to the sidelines for profits. Profits for the wealthy at the cost of everyone else. Given time...their form of "trickle down economics" WILL destroy our existing way of life.
Johnny Manziel for President! (tongue in cheek)


The problem is that sports fans are so rabidly in love of their teams they will go along with anything.

It defies logic and common sense.

They HAVE to have a new stadium... so the city floats a bond or raises taxes... and the fans LOVE it.. and pay $7 for a beer.


And yet, if the team owner paid for and owned the stadium, it would prevent the city's loss of the team by tying them to a huge piece of non-mobile capital.


Correct. Just like Cedar Point would not relocate to avoid an admissions tax or a property tax levy to support infrastructure.

Steve P

Once again Mr. Jackson has it wrong. Its a sin tax, aka consumption tax on liquor and cigarettes, choose not to purchase alcohol or tobacco products in Cuyahoga County and you don't pay it. The amount of revenue brought into the local economy and sales taxes on purchases at these facilities that are brought into into Cuyahoga County coffers takes a burden off the taxpayers, not just sporting events but also concerts and other events.

JT Adams St

Sports franchises don't benefit local economies
March 29, 2013|By Mark Soskin | Guest columnist

If Orlando throws public funds at a pro soccer stadium, it would be the clearest possible signal that local officials are clueless about economic development.

Let's review the irrefutable evidence, logic and economics that would make this a canary-in-the-coal-mine signal to businesses reconsidering an Orlando location.

First, any serious economic research will find that one of the worst possible uses of public funds is for sports-franchise facilities. "Worst" doesn't mean no return on the investment; it means loss over the long term of the principal. The only benefit is short-term — hundreds of construction jobs — which shouldn't be counted because we'd create those same jobs by using those funds to upgrade Orlando's decaying infrastructure.


Studies have repeatedly shown that almost all the money spent as a result of these facilities was first earned within 50 miles of the facility.

AJ Oliver

Tom's right, but welfare for owners of pro sports teams is just the tip of the ice-berg. Corporate welfare FAR exceeds the cost of the social safety net. And of course, they use blackmail and threats too. "We'll take away your crap-tastic job !!"
And it's gonna get worse - fueled by secret foreign campaign money, thanks to the activist-beyond-belief SCOTUS. Impeach 'em, says I.


It's big, but it doesn't exceed the welfare state. Well over half the federal budget is payments to individuals.


Are you including payments to social security recipients, medicare and Medicaid providers, military and all government employees as part of the "welfare state"?


Yes, in federal budget terminology, Social Security is included in the term payments to individuals, but no, payroll, military or civilian, is not. The other term is entitlements.

And yes, Social Security is part of the welfare state. Look at what people pay in, and what they get back, and it's essentially redistribution of wealth, just over a longer time span.


Re: "Corporate welfare"

One of the left's many catch phrases which they use to confuse and obfuscate.

Perhaps you're referring to: Federal tax expenditures?

"Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance:
The Single Largest Tax Subsidy in the Federal Budget"

Why should employees receive an untaxed benefit like health ins., whereas citizens purchasing individual coverage like Obamacare do not?


They should of had a stipulation if it passed you could take your own food and drink in. It worked in Seattle.


AJ you are sooo right. Like your take on crap-tastic job.


Um... you vote in Cuyahoga County?
So much for 'hometown' reporting.
So people who pay for the SR to read your flaps actually may be sending you income tax dollars to Cleveland?
All the people from Sandusky and farther points east who drive to Cleveland sports and pay sin taxes on their smokes and alcohol and....
I learn so much reading you...


Although I was opposed to the sin tax (largely because it was supposed to be temporary, and -- surprise, surprise -- the authorities lied about it), I also don't see this as any form of "corporate welfare."

The problem here is that the team owners, however wealthy they might be, don't actually own the stadiums in Cleveland. They're PUBLICLY owned, which means that the upkeep is publicly OWED.

If the team owners owned the stadiums, they'd get all of the revenue from them, but they'd also be responsible for property taxes, maintenance fees, etc. I don't have a problem with that, either, but asking team owners to pay up when they don't own the place seems to be nothing more or less than another disingenuous way of punishing success.


Re: "asking team owners to pay up when they don't own the place seems to be nothing more or less than another disingenuous way of punishing success."

Rather that the taxpayers are "punished" to help pay for monuments to grandiosity and big egos?

It used to be that if one wanted to see the wealthy play sports, one would watch a polo match.

Now one just needs to view a prof. league game in order to see millionaire players run around a field or court.

Remove the sports anti-trust expemption. Make it easier to start new leagues and teams. Bring some pricing competition into this govt. sanctioned and taxpayer supported monopoly.


I can't argue your point. I think teams/team owners SHOULD own their stadiums! But my own point remains: As long as the public OWNS the stadiums, the upkeep, etc. ALSO falls on the taxpayer (who, I agree, are being punished accordingly, but again, not the point).

Making it easier to start new leagues and new teams isn't a bad idea by any stretch of the imagination. But those leagues and teams have GOT to be self-supporting. If they fail, they fail. No bailouts, not for ANYbody!

P.S. Many athletes get multi-million dollar salaries because they bring IN multi-millions. I don't begrudge them their salaries, especially when careers are all too often very short-lived and they've only a few working years before they're out to pasture. In many ways, it's the true free market at work: Athletes get what they're worth as far as the return on the dollar is concerned. They don't play up to the expected level, they can't expect pay up to the expected level! Too bad more jobs don't adopt an identical strategy, eh?


Sam, essentially, you're saying that not only should the taxpayers BUILD them a stadium, they should also subsidize the ongoing costs. That's adding insult to injury.

Also, the team owners DO get ALL the revenue. They hold the lease. Every rock concert, tractor pull, rodeo, circus, ice capades, etc. that comes to these facilities deals witht he leaseholder, i.e. the team owner. The team owner gets a percentage of the gate, and typically a cut of every t-shirt and sovenir sold, not to mention a cut of ever hot dog and beer served. All the city gets is a flat annual lease payment from the team owner that, if the team owner had to build his own stadium, wouldn't pay half the interest on the construction loan.

There's no reason a lease can't hold the tenant responsible for maintenance. With a lot of car leases, you're responsible for oil changes, tires, and washing and waxing it.

The sin tax is, to borrow a phrase from those who would support it, double-plus ungood. Not only is it corporate welfare, but it's also using the tax code to effect social engineering. It's not the government's place to define something as "sin" when it doesn't involve violating another person's rights.


Why should government and the public subsidize the overhead and infrastructure of a privately held corporation? Why not build factories for Ford and GM with tax dollars too?

As Contango states the antitrust exemption for sports teams (and insurance companies) needs to be eliminated to encourage competition.


Ask instead why the public OWNS the infrastructure! I'm all for sports teams owning their own facilities just like Ford and GM own their own factories. Once again, the fault lies in government, NOT in the team owners (or in the taxpayer who, as Contango notes, is the one who ends up being punished).


No, the team owners share in the blame. They enthusiastically work the system. They actually play one city against another for who will give them the biggest dole.

JT Adams St


Every once in a while, the extremely wealthy have to take responsibility for their own conduct. The government does not force teams owners to extort sin taxes from the community by threatening to move their teams if they don't get the latest and greatest scoreboard. The government doesn't market professional sports as the source of all happiness. The government didn't insist that every stadium in the United States have luxury skyboxes. The team owners are greedy and selfish, and have the wealth and influence to get dummies like Brent Larkin and his cousin Charlie McCarthy to sell new stadiums to taxpayers. You cannot blame the government for the owners immoral behavior. The government didn't make Art Modell and Donald Sterling jerks.


Re: "You cannot blame the government for the owners immoral behavior."

Disagree. The door swings both ways.

It's an unholy alliance between monied interests and politicos, i.e. corporatism.

Can't pin the blame solely on private capital without also pointing to politicians who financially ingratiate themselves while feeding at the trough and become wealthy themselves.