Jim Brown’s Weekly Column: Should State Government Subsidize Pro Sports?

Thursday, January 16th, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Should State Government Subsidize Pro Sports?

Throughout the current NFL season, I have remained a die-hard New Orleans Saints fan. But I have also admired the Green Bay Packers.The Packers are one of the best examples of how a sports franchise should operate. They don’t go to the state capitol hat in hand, looking for a handout. The team is owned by citizen stockholders from all over Wisconsin, and the Packers’ management doesn’t regularly try to blackmail public officials into giving them more handouts under threat of picking up and moving the franchise.

Recently, when it came time for Green Bay to revamp and refurnish legendary Lambeau Field, the state of Wisconsin didn’t put up one penny. All proceeds to pay for the renovations came from the private sector. Season ticket holders were charged a one-time user fee of $1400, which fans can pay over several years. In addition, the Packers did a stock offering, just like many corporations do for capital improvements. And finally, the Packers took out a team loan to be repaid out of yearly revenues. No sweetheart deals from the state, no special considerations, no coming to the public trough for taxpayer money.

What happens in some states, including my home state of Louisiana, is that team owners cry wolf saying that they will have no choice but to move their franchise elsewhere if the tax incentives and outright dollars are not bountifully offered. But a review of the NFL team financial arrangements will show that team income is structured in such a manner that it is theoretically possible to run a profitable franchise even in a small location like my old hometown of Ferriday.  Continue Reading…………