Super Bowl

Are You Ready for Some Taxpayer-Subsidized Nonprofit Sportsball?


With the NFL playoffs underway and the BCS National Championship Game kicking off tomorrow night, now seems like a perfect time to remind every American just how screwed up the economics behind these games actually are. 

Here is the original text from the Dec. 2, 2013 video:

Whether you like football or not—whether you've ever bought a ticket to a high school, college, or NFL game—you're paying for it.

That's one of the takeaways from The King of Sports: Football's Impact on America, Gregg Easterbrook's fascinating new book on the cultural, economic, and political impact of America's most popular and lucrative sport.

"The [state-supported] University of Maryland charges each…undergraduate $400 a year to subsidize the football program," says Easterbrook, who notes that only a half-dozen or so college teams are truly self-supporting. Even powerhouse programs such as the University of Florida's pull money from students and taxpayers. "They do it," he says, "because they can get away with it."

At the pro level, billionaire team owners such as Paul Allen of the Seattle Seahawks and Shahid Khan of the Jacksonville Jaguars benefit from publicly financed stadiums for which they pay little or nothing while reaping all revenue. Easterbrook also talks about how the lobbyists managed to get the NFL chartered as a nonprofit by amending tax codes designed for chambers of commerce and trade organizations.

As's Tuesday Morning Quarterback columnist, Easterbrook absolutely loves football but also isn't slow to throw penalty flags at the game he thinks is uniquely America. In fact, he sees the hypocrisy at the center of the business of football as "one of the ways that football synchs [with] American culture….Everyone in football talks rock-ribbed conservatism, self-reliance. Then their economic structure is subsidies and guaranteed benefits. Isn't that America?"

Easterbrook sat down with Reason's Nick Gillespie to discuss The King of Sports, how the business of football burns taxpayers, and whether increased worries about brain injuries and other problems spell eventual doom for the NFL and other levels of play.
Produced by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Meredith Bragg and Krainin.

Runs about 8:45 minutes.


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  1. All I know is that Andrew Luck is a serious badass. In two or three years he’ll be the best QB in the league.

    1. I can’t believe that comeback. I’m a Broncos fan, and I still feel bad for Chiefs fans.

      1. I’m a Raider fan…. I don’t feel sorry for ’em.

        1. Me too.

        2. I understand, you are feeling too much sorrow for yourself.

      2. If you can outscore a team by 28 points in the first half, it’s not hard to believe that they can outscore you by 29 points in the second half.

        1. Heisman made a similar comment at the half time of the Cumberland game.

            1. If you don’t keep scoring in the 4th quarter, even when you’re up by 150, you’re not respecting your opponent.

    2. Or maybe Andy Reid just sucks?

    3. 3 INTs and a total disaster of a first half yesterday: check.
      Mediocre performance in last year’s wild card game on the way to losing 24-9: check.
      Career QB rating of 81.5: check.

      Yeah, he’s the next Peyton Manning, sure. But apparently footballs like to bounce into his hands after fumbles, so he’s a great one.

      1. How was the first half on Luck? Indy’s D let KC score five times in a row. Luck started out 7-7, and had a few passes tipped at the line. Then Richardson fumbled on his one carry. The first pick was just Luck taking a chance before the half, with no chance of KC scoring afterward. The second pick was dumb, but the third one the receiver gave away.

        Luck vs. Manning through 32 games:

        TDs: Luck 45, Manning 52
        INTs: Luck 27, Manning 43
        Yards: Luck 8196, Manning 7874
        W-L: Luck 22-10, Manning 16-16

        Fifth most passing yards in a playoff game, check. Second biggest comeback ever, check. 11 game winning drives in his first 2 seasons, check.

        1. Don’t know why win loss ratios matter, the only qb I know who loses games is Tony Romo with his love for fourth quarter pick sixes.

      2. Passer rating is a shitty and archaic metric.

        1. Some stat sabermetrics wizards claim that yards per attempt (YPA) is the only passer statistic that really matters and ironically is one of the most over looked.

  2. More monuments to government. I haven’t looked lately at what our local pro team, the UT Volunteers, pulls from taxpayers, but I would guess it is a pretty penny.

    I’m still trying to suppress my glee that broadcasters don’t run the FCC, since if they did no sporting event anywhere would be blacked out. If anything, the venue would have to provide free broadcast facilities by law to the press for “the publics need to know.”

  3. Are you not entertained?

  4. OT: CSPAN 3 has their funny on today. They are showing a commercial for a “vanishing ice” exhibit somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

    1. The camera truck got stuck in a snowbank, and the Chinese tow truck that tried to rescue them got stuck too.

  5. “”The [state-supported] University of Maryland charges each…undergraduate $400 a year to subsidize the football program,”

    The football program, or the athletic department which likely includes intramural rec leagues and facilities as well as the football program.

    1. Yeah, I thought gridiron football was a net moneymaker for schools in the big conferences (ACC in UMd’s case).

      1. Nope. Google around for it, but only about the top 20 teams in CFB see net profits. So, tOSU, Texas, FSU, Florida, USC, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Michigan, etc. are money makers. Maryland is certainly not a money maker.

        1. This is true-ish.

          The problem is that it is hard to tell as it depends on what general athletic expenses are put against football vs spread out.

          Different schools do it differently to sell the story they want to tell.

          But there are only 2-3 public schools that dont get fees from students nor money from the school.

        2. I doubt there are that many. When you look at the cost of facilities, I’d say it’s entirely likely that exactly zero of them are money makers. And you’ll never know for sure, because the books are off limits. I know they are for my alma mater (an SEC school).

          Technically, the University *is* audited by the state, but when the auditors get to the athletic department, they simply look the other way. This was told to me first hand by one of the auditors.

      2. MD is B1G starting July 1st but wont get a full B1G paycheck for something like 3 years.

        Meanwhile they owe the ACC $50MM.

        They are hurting big time financially.

      3. Whether or not Maryland’s foot ball team is a moneymaker, it is whether those $400 fees are subsidizing an athletic department whose facilities the students have use of, not simply the football team itself.

  6. Was it Fluffy that was whining about the NFL allowing the GB game to go forward?

    His weather predicting skills are as bad as his views on IP.

    1. Do you expect toughness from someone who chooses to go by the moniker “Fluffy”?

  7. I hope it’s coming out on Audible soon! In the meantime, I picked up Easterbrook’s Sonic Boom and The Progress Paradox to listen to over the next couple weeks.

  8. Dude seems to know which way is up!

  9. Heh. Trying to get all libertopia on football is like the atheists trying to knock down the crosses in Arlington. Correct in principle, but good luck not making half the country hate you.

    1. How is knocking down crosses in Arlington correct on principle? The symbology used is the preference of the serviceman buried there.

      1. The Argonne Cross gets ripped on all the time because it isn’t on private property.

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