Jim Brown's Weekly Column: March Madness Are Athletes Being Short Changed?

Thursday, April 9, 2009
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Millions of rabid college basketball fans have been glued to their TVs over the past month as March Madness reached its crescendo this Monday night.  My North Carolina Tar Heels came close in an effort to win its second national title in the past five years.  And the big bucks have been rolling in.  There are lots of winners, with coaches getting big salaries, and colleges spiting up their percentage of huge TV and admission revenues.  But there is one group that is being both exploited and shortchanged. It’s the players, themselves.

There’s certainly not a shortage of income.  This year in the NCAA tourney, television income is estimated to be some $750 million, with an additional $50 million from ticket sales and sponsorships. The cost of a thirty second spot for Monday night’s championship game exceeds $1 million.  And college football is awash with the same increasing yearly income. More bowl games, and the ever increasing television revenue allows most college football programs to cover the cost of a growing array of minor sports. Continue reading “Jim Brown's Weekly Column: March Madness Are Athletes Being Short Changed?”

Jim Brown

Thursday, March 17, 2011
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


When Tea party candidates throughout the country ran for office last fall, most members offered soaring campaign promises to defend liberty of ordinary Americans, and fight governmental intrusions on basic freedoms. But whatever hopes there were that newly elected Tea Partiers would put the brakes on intrusive domestic surveillance, illegal wire wiretapping and warrantless searches went out the window just 20 days into the new Congress.

With only minor whimpers, Tea Party leaders did an about face by abandoning their previous opposition to the so called Patriot Act, voting to indefinitely extend this Orwellian law that flouts the Bill of Rights. The federal government has now been given carte blanche to spy on everything you do online, every call you make, and every trip you take. “But there is danger out there,” says your congressman. “So just get used to it!” Privacy is gone, so get with the new world. No more basic constitutional protections? “Get over it.”

As Brian Doherty writes in the American Conservative: “Thanks to the massive security apparatus erected after 9/11, the government now wiretaps telephone calls without warrants, creates profiles of citizens even if they’re not suspected of specific crimes, and seizes information without judicial oversight.” In this brave new world, private companies that maintain massive data bases of information on what we are saying, writing, buying and thinking, willingly turnover reams of information about their customers. Continue reading “Jim Brown”

Jim Brown

Thursday, March 10, 2011
New Orleans, Louisiana


Here’s your question for the day! Name a Louisiana resident who seriously considered running for President? Here are a few hints to round out his profile. His resume’ shows that he was well educated and intelligent, was a member of congress, was elected governor of Louisiana….and is short. Several candidates come to mind, right? Bobby Jindal, and now, Buddy Roemer. But there were more. Read on.

Actually, no Louisianan has ever been elected President. Zachery Taylor might barely qualify, although he spent very little time down in the Deep South. One resident of the Bayou State did make it to the nation’s highest court. Edward Douglass White, a former Louisiana Supreme Court justice, served on the U.S. Supreme Court for 27 years between 1894-1921. In 1910, at the age of 65, White was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court by President William Howard Taft. Continue reading “Jim Brown”

Jim Brown

Thursday, February 24th, 2011
Shreveport, Louisiana


It’s redistricting time for legislators, both in Louisiana and throughout the country. Criticism that decisions are being shaped behind closed doors is raining down on this politically sensitive process.  Lawmakers in my home state have scheduled a number of meetings to discuss the process of divvying up the various political boundaries including congressional, public service commission, and their own legislative districts. Many of the sessions are not open to the public.   “Wrong!” cry the press and the good government groups.  But the question should be, why are legislators meeting at all?

By federal law, all election districts must be reapportioned every 10 years to reflect the latest census figures. This puts Louisiana elections officials in a bind because census figures have just become available that reflect changes over the past ten years, and the state is just months away from a gubernatorial election.  But should legislators, who have a vested interest in how the redistricting lines are drawn, actually be the ones to do the drawing, anyway?

The problem is one of gerrymandering, where district lines are not drawn to reflect geographical or political balance, but to favor the incumbent or some other partisan choice.  When legislators do the redistricting, the norm seems to be that the state ends up with meandering footprints meticulously designed, it would seem, to ensure that no incumbent will face serious opposition, regardless of how the political winds are blowing.  As one local political observer said, “Think about it this way.  In elections, people choose their legislators.  In reapportionment, legislators choose their people.” Continue reading “Jim Brown”

Jim Brown

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


So who ya’ rootin’ for in the Super Bowl game on Sunday? It’s an easy choice for me living down here in Louisiana. 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 all over Wisconsin, and the Packers’ management doesn’t regularly try to blackmail public officials into giving 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 $1,400, 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 home town of Ferriday. Continue reading “Jim Brown”

Jim Brown

Thursday, January 27th, 2011
New Orleans, Louisiana


New Orleans is off to a fast start in this New Year to maintain its perennial title of being the murder capital of America. When the city celebrated Martin Luther King Day last week, five people were shot down. Just a few killings often seem to be a good day. The first violent death took place on day two of the New Year. In the few short weeks since then, 16 more murders have been chalked up. At this rate, could a new record high be in the making?

Any murder is tragic, but one can weave through the crime lore of the Crescent City to see some deaths that just can’t be explained. The locals often seem to shrug and accept the blood flowing as a price you pay for living in what always ranks as America’s “most interesting city.” Violence seems to be an integral part of the gumbo that blends a different genre of street smells, music, spices, poverty, and minions of eccentric characters. But then, the killings continue and grow in numbers.

The brutal execution that got to me the worst was the tragic death of a little boy a few years back. Ja’Shawn Powell was two years old, and lived in New Orleans with his mother.  His father, a guy named Danny Platt, came to pick up Ja’Shawn for a weekend visit.  The boy, according to his mother was really excited.  “Oh, my daddy’s here,” he beamed as he ran to the door.  “Daddy, daddy, daddy.”  His mother said: “He was so happy.” 

Then his daddy drove off….. took a knife….. slit this little boy’s throat….. and allowed the toddler to bleed to death. Continue reading “Jim Brown”

Jim Brown

Thursday, January 20th, 2011
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


After eight and a half years in a federal prison, Louisiana’s prodigal son has come home. And far from quietly slipping back into home confinement, the former Louisiana governor was greeted with the fascination generally reserved for a rock star. There was the kind of media coverage and public fascination generally reserved for a President or the Pope. Even the Kingfish would have been envious. Edwin Edwards is back.

I played a minor role in the Edwards homecoming, being the publisher of his recently released biography, “Edwin Edwards-Governor of Louisiana.” Written by my colleague, Leo Honeycutt, it became an immediate best seller. On the day of Edwards’ release last week, ten Louisiana television stations came by my office for interviews. The entire state seemed to be consumed by the frenzy of the return of the most controversial public figure in the state’s history. Love him or hate him, only a few were not caught up in the fascination of the state’s longest serving governor.

I had been approached in 2008 by B.I. Moody, a friend and supporter of mine over many years, who built Moody Publications into the largest newspaper chain in the state. B. I. and Edwards had shared office space when they first started out in business back in the early 1950s, and they had remained the closest of friends over the years. B.I. felt that a balanced legacy of Edwards had not been fully presented. Continue reading “Jim Brown”

Jim Brown

Thursday, January 13th, 2011
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Are there political lessons to be learned from Saturday’s tragic shootings in Tucson? The talk show pundits on both the left and right would have us believe that the other side’s hyper-partisanship has been the catalyst for a growing vehemence and hatred that led to the terrible violence by one deranged killer. Are there underlying causes to explain this shocking event that can be directed towards either side of the political spectrum? Many talk show hosts would have you believe so. But killings tragically happen, and birds fall from the sky. And often, the cause is not political.

Two tragedies took place last week. A highly unstable punk kid did have some political misgivings. But they were not influenced nor directed from viewpoints on the left or the right. On the Internet, he ranted about government thought control, and how the country should return to the gold standard — hardly partisan issues. Few of us trust the government’s involvement in our personal lives, but almost none of us react with violence. No, the cause of this tragedy in Tucson appears to be exclusively the shooter’s internal demons. Continue reading “Jim Brown”

Jim Brown

Thursday, January 6th, 2011
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


So happy New Year! And by the way, get ready for higher property insurance rates along the Gulf Coast, particularly in Louisiana. One would think that if anything, homeowner’s rates would be going down. After all, there has been virtually no hurricane activity in the Gulf for the past four years. And with the national economic slump, home prices have dropped which should translate into lower insurance rates. Not so say the experts. Here are a few reasons why many states, particularly my home state of Louisiana, will see higher rates in the coming year.

Huge claims for the BP Gulf Oil spill will definitely boost insurance rates for the oil industry. No one at this stage can even guess what the final insurance costs will be from both the damage and years of ligation from the Gulf spill. Most of the larger oil companies are self insured, which means they will have to divert funds from operating costs into designated reserve funds. Independent companies, that produce both oil and gas, will see their insurance costs go up. Higher insurance costs mean cut backs, possible layoffs, and higher prices for both oil and gas. And those insurance companies that have taken a big hit over the Gulf spill will have no choice but to raise rates for all lines of insurance, including homeowners.

Citizens Property Insurance Company in Louisiana continues to run amok, and be a factor in higher insurance rates. Louisiana taxpayers are on the hook for well over a billion dollars because of the state created company’s mismanagement. The company is now bragging that it has reduced the number of policies it is selling. But this becomes a catch 22. As Citizens looses customers, the overall risk increases. A new study by the Insurance Information Institute pointed out the Louisiana state run plan still maintains a “precarious financial condition.” Simple translation — it’s broke, and will be for years. Last month the company asked the Louisiana Insurance Department for an increase that in some south Louisiana parishes will top 24%. Continue reading “Jim Brown”

Jim Brown

December 30, 2010
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


(Jim Brown repeats this week his annual New Year’s column that he has posted annually for many years. It is still quite relevant today.)

Did you make a New Year’s resolution yet? I always do. Hope and foreboding are at the top of my list and have been these past few years. The New Year always brings a promise of uncertainty. More so for most of us in the coming year. I would rather be absorbed with the more mundane things in life. But that won’t happen in the busy lives that most of us lead.

One resolution I make each year is to maintain my curiosity. It does not matter how limited your perspective or the scope of your surroundings, there is (or should be) something to wet your interest and strike your fancy. I discovered early on that there are two kinds of people; those who are curious about the world around them, and those whose shallow attentions are generally limited to those things that pertain to their own personal well-being. I just hope all those I care about fall into the former category. Continue reading “Jim Brown”