Super Bowl

Suing the NFL


Hamilton County, Ohio, home of the National Football League's Cincinnati Bengals and signatory to one of the shittiest professional sports franchise contracts in human history, has joined a first-of-its-kind lawsuit accusing the NFL and the Bengals "of squeezing $450 million from taxpayers to build a football stadium."

Paul Brown Stadium, built with state and local tax dollars, opened in 2000. Elected officials were so desperate to keep the generally hapless Bengals around that they signed a remarkable deal. As reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer:

"This lease is so one-sided that it shocks the conscience," Commissioner Phil Heimlich said. "We build the stadium and maintain it and yet they get 50 percent from soccer games, concerts and other events that have nothing to do with the Bengals."

The county is seeking to recover $200 million in damages and alleges that the NFL and the Bengals used a "monopoly" position to cut such a great deal. Most legal observers say the case is almost sure to fail, partly because it's self-evident that elected officials at the time were more than happy to sign such a deal.

Which is great for taxpayers. First they get stuck with a revenue sinkhole. Then they get stuck with the bill for trying to get out of the deal in the first place.

NEXT: First Do No Harm

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  1. I agree with Warren. Gadfly, try being a contractor for a large corporate concern, like Dell, Honda or GM. I think you’ll find a little concern for “fairness,” and much more hard-knuckle bargaining.

  2. And I wondered why my friends who work in Cincinnati bought a condo in northern Kentucky….

  3. Here in D.C., there’s been a 30-year campaign to bring baseball back. The pro-baseball pundits have called for all sorts of government intervention (stadium subsidies, repealing baseball’s antitrust exemption) to get a team. Yet it’s never occurred to anyone that if you want a stadium built, and the market exists for one, local officials should get out of the way entirely. That means no subsidies, but it also means no zoning nonsense or regulatory tie-ups. Privately funded stadiums became an endangered species because of the government, not because of “monopolistic” owners, though certainly they must share in the blame for the present system.

  4. Raymund, I affectionately refer to the Brent Spence Bridge over the Ohio as ‘Check Point Charlie’ …

  5. Are all sports stade publicly financed in the U.S.?

  6. Local boosters 60 miles south of me at the Gateway to the Third World (Miami) are still trying, after eleven years, to get a stadium built for the Marlins. But there is hope: even after two World Series victories, pie-in-the-sky promises of trickle-down wealth for every citizen and reflected glory for all True Baseball Fans, the locals still will not bite.

    Anybody want a team? Cheap?

  7. JB:

    Some stadia in the U.S. are completely funded by governments, some by private interests, and many are built with a combination of public and private funds. Facilities for ice hockey and basketball, seating from ~10k-25k, are much more likely to be private sector projects, while a football or baseball stadium, seating ~35k+ are frequent recipients of tax funds.

    I blame Roosevelt II. Except for football stadia at state universities, private arenas were the rule before Cleveland stadium was allowed to be built with WPA funds.

    Given the Bengals record over the period covered by the suit, shouldn’t the good burghers of Cincy sue the teams ownership for not providing the promised product, a professional football team? 🙂

  8. JB,
    The funny thing is one of the most profitable, beautiful baseball stadiums in the US is completely privately funded (there may have been a deal on the property, but besides that all funded). SBC Park (formerly PacBell) in San Francisco. A few cities stand up to the pressure of publicly funded stadiums and sometimes they call their bluff (which is why LA has no NFL team).

  9. JB and others, if you want a great behind-the-scenes look at what goes on with this publicly-funded stadium nonsense, read Jim Bouton’s Foul Ball. It’s about his efforts to keep authorities in his small town from raping the taxpayers for a stadium, and instead to build one with private money, and how he lost. He has a website about it, too.

  10. The trouble is that there’s too many godddamn football fans who’ll vote for anything to keep their favorite collection of overpaid gorillas from going to some other town. The fact that there aren’t really many viable cities left for a team to move to is lost on them, as is the probability that if their city is worth putting a NFL franchise into, one will likely be along in a few years — witness the Baltimore Ravens.

    Maybe if you could get them hooked on ballet early in life they’d vote to fund opera houses.

  11. Yeah.. I don’t think “we were idiots” is a sufficiently powerful legal argument.

  12. They deserve what they are getting, they signed the deal.

    I lived in Tampa and still am proud to have voted against their stupid stadium deal. They finally got it passed by including the fire and police depts in the largess of the tax increase.

    What bullshit, they gave the Bucs profits from everything that moved in the stadium and rights to decide on every event scheduled there.

  13. I agree the lawsuit is ridiculous and should never have been filed. An interesting story exists, however, with the miserly Brown family. Even though it had hardly any financial obligations with the new stadium (the taxpayers picked up the tab for everything), he was obliged to care for the natural grass. This he did not do. Those who are interested may try to search for old news articles covering early games in the new stadium where cheaply planted chunks of turf flew everywhere!

  14. Turnabout’s fair play.

    I’ve been doing government contracting for 10 years, having benefitted from the privatization mentality that’s now popular. Governments routinely bend their vendors over and fuck them with glee at contract negotiation time because they know there’s 10 others that will take it and like it. One sided indemnity clauses that transfer ALL liability to the vendor (even the government oversight staff) and no guaranteed volume while requiring the vendor to ramp up to pre-determined staffing levels are just a sample of their tactics.

    It’s kind of fun to see them get a little of their own treatment.

  15. Gadfly,
    Who you kidding? Yourself maybe, if you really believe it’s the vendor that’s getting fucked. There’s a reason there’s always “10 others that will take it and like it”. Getting a government contract is like getting a license to print money.

  16. I don’t deny there’s money in it. When the wheels fall off, though, (and they have before) they can wipe a little guy out (and it has before). It’s different for the big guys.

  17. The funniest/saddest one was St. Louis. They refused to build a stadium for Bill Bidwill, who then moved the Cardinals to Phoenix. Then they built a whopper stadium with public money when they didn’t even have a team. Eventually they bribed the Rams to move from LA and paid off all their lawsuits with LA to boot. The topper is that Phoenix gave Bidwill a handshake that they would build him a stadium and then stiffed him – the Cards now play at the local college field.

  18. The NFL is suing USA Football INC , (a company that predates the NFL USA Football by Years.)in Houston Tx. Federal District Court… Judge Nancy Atlas.

    The NFL is out there, in the Business world suing small businessmen into oblivion.

    Most people have no clue as to the NFL’s plan to totally control Football in the USA and the World.

    check ot and read the statues as well as the rules for joining the International
    American Football Association. The NFL owns USA Football and has put Dave Ogrean as the Treasurer for the IFAF. Ogrean is the Executive in charge of USA Football.

    The NFL effectively controls all Football World wide as well as in the United States via International Law.

    The NFL has sold you out for a Monopoly.

  19. Actually, the Bengals are not a shitty sports franchise. They are business geniuses. When you are a person trying to make money, and you enter in a business, where your revenues are SHARED, why would you try to win at all? As long as the big TV contracts and gate receipts come into the NFL and I get 1/32 of the $, I would pay my players the legal minimum, hire the cheapest coaches, trainers, front of house people, rip off the local government, and then pocket the profits (check the numbers, Bengals have the highest profits), and they can’t kick me out!!! It was part of the agreement BY CONGRESS that NFL could not get rid of any existing teams. Since I would own the team, why not milk it? Isn’t this all about making money in the end?

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