Cleveland Wants 'Sin Tax' To Become 'Win Tax' for Sports Teams


Cuyahoga County Chief Executive Ed FitzGerald announced an it's-just-crazy-enough-to-work scheme to end decades of heartache inflicted upon Cleveland's sports fans. FitzGerald, who just happens to be in an uphill gubernatorial battle, proposed on Thursday a policy by which the Browns, Indians, and Cavaliers would only receive a chunk of their taxpayer-subsidized millions if they actually win games.

A press release on his website explains:

When the sin tax extension takes effect next year, FitzGerald's proposal will continue to direct 80 percent of all sin tax revenues towards repair, maintenance, and improvement to ensure Cleveland's three major sports facilities remain among the best in the nation. …

The remaining 20 percent of sin tax revenues would be reserved for performance bonuses presented to the team or teams that perform well each year. The "Win Tax" bonus is designed to reward the organizations that commit themselves to giving fans a winning team and generating economic benefits for the Northeast Ohio economy. Based on projections of future sin tax revenues, the Win Tax bonus will make more than $50 million available for justified capital improvements.

His plan includes a "fan advisory council" to help decide how to split the cash, but details on that haven't been fleshed out. FitzGerald told The Plain Dealer that he's confident this is the first time such a policy has been proposed. Somewhat alarming, though, is the fact that the FBI-agent-turned-politician is a bit dodgy when it comes to questions about sports management in general or Cleveland's three major teams in particular. 

Cleveland sports radio personalities Bruce Hooley and Jerod Cherry criticized the plan during an interview with FitzGerald. Cherry, who played in the NFL, assured that it wouldn't improve on-field performance. Hooley stated, "I don't want government interference in how my sports teams are run. You've hit on a perfect grandstand play for a political candidate, because everyone wants to say, well I'll hold the teams accountable. But you're talking about telling billionaires how to run their business when you guys have enough stuff to do."

And I'd like to stand by that, except that Cleveland's teams are just as guilty for the situation they're in. The billion-dollar owners of multi-million dollar teams invited government interference by spending the last 24 years lobbying for a cut of the money every time someone drank a beer or smoked a cigarette in Cuyahoga County.

Unfortunately, the citizens have also made themselves culpable in Cleveland's boondoggle. In May they voted in favor a 20-year extension on the tax.

Below is the episode of Reason Saves Cleveland With Drew Carey in which Reason specifically warned against subsidizing athletic franchises and other big businesses that regularly promise (but fail) to draw consumers into the economically crippled locale:

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  1. Look, Johnny Football is going to solve all these problems. The Browns will be ascendant. Man, I cannot wait for football season this year. Seeing as the Seahawks are going to win the Superbowl again, it’s going to be a lot of fun.

    1. Same as the Vikings’ eleventy jillion QBs will solve all of their probelms, amirite? (srsly – how many QBs do the Vikes have right now? 5? 6?)

      1. I have no idea. All I know is that the Seahawks have Percy Harvin (formerly of the Vikings) and he’s faster than the Road Runner. Maybe he can play more than 1.5 games this season.

        1. He’s been injury-prone (and “migraine” prone) his entire career. I had great hopes for him when he was with the Vikes, but it seemed like he never played. Sidney Rice is the guy I wish we still had. And an O line. And any kind of D whatsoever.

          1. Except the Seahawks have Sidney too. And he was also out much of last season with an injury. If Russell has both Harvin and Rice back–which he didn’t at all last season–watch the fuck out.

          2. You guys could sure use a man like Bobby Moore again.

        2. MEEP MEEP!

          /Percy Harvin

    2. But nobody is better than Tony Romo, according to Jerry “The Idiot” Jones.

    3. I’ll take the Browns to miss the playoffs.

        1. They can be my pall bearers.

    4. Yeah, he’s going to make them interesting to watch, which is more than you could say for any other QB they’ve had in the past 20 years or so.

      1. What about Weeden? Take snap, look confused, hold ball, look confused, hold ball, look confused, throw ball 70 yards to the other team, take crushing hit, look confused. That spells excitement.

        1. Nah, seeing you shirtless, NOW THAT’s EXCITEMENT!

        2. I mean, if they taught the receivers to tackle, it would be better than the kicking game.

  2. Nice idea; incomplete application.

    How about something like: “Unless Congress’s approval rating remains over 50% during a congresscreature’s entire term, said congresscreature is ineligible for salary, benefits, pension, and re-election.”

  3. I bet they will be let down yet again.

  4. If this were instituted… in 5 years, you’d have the city council trying to sabotage the teams in order to keep the lucre to themselves.

    Which would be really, really, funny.

  5. Really? Not one “let down” comment in the entire article?

    I am disappoint.

    My fave from the time I worked in Cleveland. I was bitching about the Lions horribleness…going on and on, it’s terrible, we haven’t even made the playoffs….

    My compadres just glared at me, and said, “At least you got the Tigers…the Pistons….and the goddamned RedWings….”

    “Uh….*cough*….right….I’ll just shut the fuck up now….”

    I give Cleveland fans this – they’re even tougher than Cubs fans. Cause, really, fuck Cubs fans. Whereas ya gotta feel a LITTLE sympathy for the perpetual-loser, not a Championship since….forever….Cleveland sports fan.

    PS And who did Detroit beat to win their last NFL Championship? Why, yes – CLEVELAND, in 1957.

    PPS Shit, even the Michigan Panthers won the inaugural….IFL??? WTF was that league. USFL! That was it. Anyway, Michigan Panthers won the inaugural championship in that league. I don’t remember if Cleveland even HAD a USFL team. As 8 Ball said in “Full Metal Jacket: “Poor, dumb bastards…”

    1. Drake at 12:22, me at 12:27…

      1. In. The. ARTICLE. Swiss.

        Not the comments.

        Now YOU have disappoint me. I haz a sad šŸ™

  6. athletic franchises and other big businesses that regularly promise (but fail) to draw consumers into the economically crippled locale

    Wait, the tax wasn’t sold on the idea of improving the teams’ win/loss records? Then why is that what you now want to incentivize?

    Rhetorical question of course, I know that the answer is “because stoopid”.

  7. if you can read this and don’t feel pity, you are a bad person.…..orts_teams

    Not saying Cleveland’s woes are undeserved, but man it’s gotta be hard to be a fan.

  8. Poor Cleveland. It’s like Columbus’ retarded older brother. They should replace Chief Wahoo with Rainman.

    1. That is an excellent idea. We can get rid of this controversy about the insensitivity of the name by just renaming the team. The Cleveland Retards. I like the sound of it.

      1. “No, really — it’s an homage to the city’s world class orchestra!”

  9. Why wouldn’t opposing teams throw games to them in exchange for a cut? Especially since it’s not illegal for competitors in most sports to fix contests for reasons unrelated to gambling? Am I the only person to realize what seems to me a perfectly obvious incentive?

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