Football

The NFL Should Pay for Super Bowl Security, Not Taxpayers

If Trump wants to negotiate good deals for taxpayers, he should start putting some pressure on his old nemesis: the National Football League.

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Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire CGV/Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire/Newscom

Super Bowl Sunday is sometimes called an "unofficial national holiday," but the federal government plays a larger—and more expensive—role than it probably should, for what is still very much a private event.

As Juliette Kayyem, chair of the Homeland Security Project at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, points out in The Washington Post, the Super Bowl is designated as a SEAR (Special Events Assessment Rating) Level I event—that's Department of Homeland Security speak for "a really juicy target for potential terrorists"—and gets the same sort of security treatment as, for example, the State of the Union address (another SEAR Level 1 event).

Practically, that means almost every federal law enforcement agency is part of Super Bowl security, and every police officer in Atlanta will be on-duty Sunday, according to CNN. Together, they will handle security checkpoints around the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta, as well as emergency response and cybersecurity operations. There's even a no-fly zone around the stadium that starts at 3 p.m. on Sunday and extends until midnight, with Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) aircraft patrolling the skies during that time. In all, more than 1,500 personnel are involved in securing the Super Bowl. And then there are the more questionable uses of federal resources, like sex trafficking stings that mostly nab consenting adults and the weird CBP-led operation that seized $24 million in counterfeit Super Bowl merchandise.

All of that is paid for by taxpayers—either at the federal or local level.

When the NFL's contract with Minneapolis to host last year's Super Bowl was made public, we got a glimpse at how little the NFL actually contributes to paying for its own championship game. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, that contract contained almost 200 instances of the phrase "at no cost to the NFL," including a clause making clear that security issues are left to the host city to fund.

"It makes sense that federal law enforcement, with all its capabilities, has a central role in efforts to make the Super Bowl as safe an experience as possible for fans and its host community," writes Kayyem in the Post. But, she argues, it's time for the NFL to "start shouldering more of the security the costs for its own premier event."

Indeed it should. That's even more true when the federal government is running trillion-dollar deficits, and when the threat of more shutdowns continue to loom over federal workers. If the Super Bowl had taken place two weeks ago, some of those federal law enforcement employees securing the game would have been working without pay. Perhaps that would have put more attention on how ridiculous it is that the NFL does not cover at least some of the cost of securing its own event.

President Donald Trump, who often expresses an interest in negotiating better deals for American taxpayers and has openly stoked criticism of the NFL, should take the opportunity to demand that the league defray those costs in future years. There is already a playbook to follow. In 2015, the NFL willingly gave up its tax-exempt status after members of Congress and the media draw attention to the nonsensical loophole that saved the league about $10 million annually.

Because the NFL is concerned about public perception, this is a perfect opportunity for Trump to use his bully pulpit to benefit taxpayers, whack his old rivals in the NFL, and stand up for American law enforcement personnel. It seems like a win-win for the president, but don't hold your breath for anything to change.

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  1. The legitimate purpose of government is to protect our rights. We have police to protect our rights from criminals. Courts to protect our rights from the police. A military to protect our rights from foreign threats, terrorism, etc.

    I’m not sure this is entirely outside the purview of government’s legitimate role in protecting our rights. It’s certainly not as bad as public schools, social security, medicaid, and medicare.

    1. There’s been some tension in that regard at lower levels — I think some cities have been charging sports teams for the public service costs of their championship parades, under pressure from people who don’t give a rats ass about sports and resent the disruption of the event enough without the cost of (maybe) preventing rioting and cleaning up after coming out of their pockets. In some respects this is like the controversy over stadium funding — When your commercial enterprise makes infrastructural demands beyond the norm, can you just claim “hey, look a the benefit to the local economy!” and be off the hook for the associated costs?

      1. can you just claim “hey, look a the benefit to the local economy!” and be off the hook for the associated costs?

        Yes.

        1. $Bazzillions for ritualized violence, and we the taxpayers are forced to pay it…
          Can we just spare a bare few million for ritualized sex, too, at the local naked-titty-dancing club? A little CHOICE here, please?

          Ritualized sex is FAR less likely to result in cracked ribs & broken spines & damaged brains than football, BUT, NOOOO, no tax dollars for ritualized sex… Tax dollars to SHUT HER DOWN!
          How do we start a movement, Free the Naked Titties-Skin, Just Say NO to Pigskin!

    2. If the NFL wants to stop counterfeit merchandise sales they should hire private detectives and lawyers to do it.

      1. Should they be forced to pay for the jailing of the counterfeiters? Should they be forced to pay for the judge and reimburse the jury for their gasoline?

        Seeing the government’s legitimate purposes makes it clearer to me when the government has overstepped its bounds.

        1. Hell yes. Make the NFL pay for it all. Fair share and all that jazz.
          And charge them a million dollars an hour for the forced bridge closure. Then we can charge the elites that somehow are not at risk when they use the public bridge that is too dangerous for the public to use. Or something.

          1. Do you think everyone else should be forced to pay for the upkeep of the criminals who steal from them while they’re in prison, or is that just NFL owners for some reason?

            1. Counterfeit merchandise seems like it should be more of a civil matter. Now a tag falsely indicating a counterfeit item is officially licensed NFL merchandise would be fraud,which is different, but then again, Reason would have us believe that words like”mayonnaise, meat and milk don’t really mean anything.

    3. “I’m not sure this is entirely outside the purview of government’s legitimate role in protecting our rights.”

      How is maintaining a road block or drone surveillance protecting your rights? These government agencies are providing security for a sporting event, something the private sector has long been capable of.

      1. Imagine my amazement! Yes!
        There is nothing involved in these activities which cannot easily be accomplished by a private entity, pretty much violating the concept of government action only when a task or action is beyond the scope of private activity.

        1. Security is an expense every business has to bear.

      2. Sure, private security people could set up a road block, but what happens if somebody runs the road block? Can the private security folk use necessary force to stop that? The government would show up anyway on the grounds that somebody “took the law into their own hands”.

        1. “Sure, private security people could set up a road block, but what happens if somebody runs the road block?”

          The cops who should be there regardless of the event?
          See how easy that was?

        2. If they couldn’t, then why not?

  2. Let’s extend this to government officials.

    Seriously, though, my attitude is that government officials who become so important that they require special laws and special protection have become, by definition, too singularly important; that we would be better off with a government where no single person or group of people was so important that their demise would be a catastrophe warranting such special protection.

    I know some private people hire bodyguards. Bloomberg and other gun grabbers are infamous for wanting to disarm everybody but their bodyguards. But what about CEOs like Ford and General Motors? Do they have 24×7 bodyguards and security details? I really do not know. I suppose that some rich people have chauffeurs more for protection than for driving, and maybe have bodyguards riding along too. But how much?

    1. I get the sentiment, but the purpose of protecting government officials is only partly to prevent the damage and disruption their loss would do, it’s also to allow them to do their job effectively (without being distracted by constant fear of assault) and avoid further discouraging people from seeking the job. It’s bad enough that wealth is an effective prerequisite for getting elected, without making it even more of a requirement for holding office.

      Now, if their was some way to balance the matter — “Yes the taxpayer will cover the bill for your protection while going to the summit conference, but if you want to vacation anywhere but maybe Camp David, you foot the bill yourself.” — I’d likely support it.

      1. “It’s bad enough that wealth is an effective prerequisite for getting elected, without making it even more of a requirement for holding office.”

        Tell that to Bernie.

      2. Why do they fear assault? If government stuck to legitimate uses of force, it’s doubtful that officials would have anything to fear.

        1. Precisely. Thank you.

  3. 1) I can tell you that the SF Giants are on the hook for all police presence, including OT, over and above scheded patrols, for every one of their home games.
    2) I can tell you that after a visit from Obo, one peninsula city tried to bill the WH for security, and they were told to take the WH to court if they wanted.

    1. 1) I can tell you that the SF Giants are on the hook for all police presence, including OT, over and above scheded patrols, for every one of their home games.

      This sounds like the right approach IMO.

      If the NFL wants to have a huge party, then they should fully pay for the costs of that huge party *above and beyond* the costs that would normally accrue if there was no party.

      1. ^+1
        Amazed twice this evening (sorry Brady won again, but Goss had deer-in-the-headlight eyes)

  4. I don’t know why a championship game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots is taking place in Atlanta anyway, shouldn’t the Rams and Pats fans get first dibs on seeing them play and shouldn’t LA or Boston shoulder the costs of their teams? They don’t play the World Series or the NBA Championship Series at a neutral site, why does the NFL? If at Atlanta wants to host a Super Bowl, the Falcons need to learn how to score from inside the 20. You get a Super Bowl when you’ve earned one.

    1. They have great strip clubs in Atlanta, that’s why the game is being played there.

    2. Part of the problem is that so much prep goes in to the Superbowl that they choose the venue years in advance, for example Superbowl 58 will be played on Feb 4, 2024, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans

      Another issue the league’s decision that Superbowls must always be played in a warm weather city, or in a dome, so a Superbowl between, say, the Chicago Bears and the Buffalo Bills couldn’t be played in either team’s stadium

      The last is that more recently the league has decided that cities don’t even get to bid on hosting, the league will decide which cities are “eligible” to host, and then the cities decide if they want to be considered or not

      1. Not original with me, but appropriate; “follow the money”.

      2. It’s not always in a warm weather city. Usually, but not always. Last year it was in Minneapolis (for the second time). It’s been in Detroit twice. Indianapolis once. New York once.

        1. I said its in a warm weather city, or in a dome, Detroit and Indianapolis both have domes, as does Minneapolis which has also hosted a Superbowl. There has never been a Superbowl in the city or state of New York

          The two teams I chose (the Bears and the Bills) both play in cold weather cities in outdoor stadiums, so they cannot host a Superbowl

    3. Agree. Like the baseball all-star game the SB should rotate around the league.

      That way, although Cleveland may never be in the SB, but the SB could be in Cleveland!

      Or play them all in Green Bay. Make the teams earn their pay.

    4. “I don’t know why a championship game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots is taking place in Atlanta anyway,”

      Because the NFL chooses to do so.

  5. While we’re at it, is there any other class of event that should be billed for government-supplied security? Concerts, Mardi Gras parades…?

    1. If those activities are arranged privately, seems they can provide their own security. If they are arranged by the government(s), why? And why not end them?

      1. The attendees have already been taxed for police, fire, & EMS. Why should they pay for those services again just because they’re gathering?

        1. Fuck off, idiot.

  6. Taxpayers are also paying to keep El Presidente out of the stadium.

    Keeping El Presidente and PFT from infiltrating the American classic is well worth law enforcement’s time.

  7. Isn’t making them pay for their own security a form of heckler’s veto? Or does it not count as that because it’s a commercial enterprise?

    Seems to me HyR’s been singling out pro football for special tx, when all they are is big, so the aggregation of benefits makes it look like they’re getting something special, & really they’re not on a $ for $ basis.

    1. “Isn’t making them pay for their own security a form of heckler’s veto? Or does it not count as that because it’s a commercial enterprise?”

      I doubt that applies. No one is objecting to any speech, so finding the “heckler” is a bit tough.
      This is providing security for a large number of people gathered to watch an event. And yes, someone is profiting, so that someone should bear the costs as an expense required to produce the event.
      No free-speech issue involved at all.

      1. In other words, somebody is imposing costs on their freedom of expression. When a university makes a group pay security costs for invited speakers there, because violence might occur, that’s usu. considered a heckler’s veto.

        1. “In other words, somebody is imposing costs on their freedom of expression.”
          Cite missing.

          1. An entertainment event is expression. The term “heckler’s veto” was coined for situations where a potential host facility wants to ban an event because it may attract violence. The term’s been extended to situations where the host facility demands a bond & add’l payment for security to allow the event to be held, even though the facility’s costs are already borne by tuition, donors, or taxpayers. This is such a case. A gov’t-owned facility is being used for a privately-financed expressive event. If gov’t demands add’l payment for security as a result of aggressors who might be attracted by the event, that’s heckler’s veto. What part of this do you not get?

            1. “What part of this do you not get?”

              What part of that pile is supposed to make sense?
              Tired of your sophistry and bullshit. Get lost.

  8. Theoretically when there’s a big event for which police are needed for security, directing traffic, & the like, the fact that a crowd is drawn there means those people aren’t elsewhere. The event then reduces the need for police elsewhere; we just don’t see that because the reduction in need is spread over the entire world & is miniscule anyplace it can be measured.

    1. Robert|2.3.19 @ 3:41PM|#
      “Theoretically when there’s a big event for which police are needed for security, directing traffic, & the like, the fact that a crowd is drawn there means those people aren’t elsewhere.”

      That is a theory in need of a LOT of proof. And that proof should be underwritten by those profiting by the event.
      Large crowds offer easy chances for mischief, and do not reduce the need for security elsewhere under any current understanding.

      1. Surely you don’t mean to imply that crooks will be robbing and drug dealing with more freedom in other parts of Atlanta?

        1. Most policing is not directed vs. such activities. most policing is just for maintaining public order. That’s why police depts. have special, relatively small anti-crime units; most policing is not vs. crime.

          Fewer people, less need for police.

          1. ” most policing is not vs. crime”

            most policing is not vs. crime

            FIFY

      2. You don’t think enough man-hrs. could be diverted from elsewhere on an annual basis to provide enough security for such an event?

        1. “You don’t think enough man-hrs. could be diverted from elsewhere on an annual basis to provide enough security for such an event?”

          Not up to me to prove a negative; you prove your claim.

          1. The Atlanta police are working 12-hr. shifts for a wk. That could easily be made up in comp time the other 51 wks. The CBP can easily shift work from elsewhere; in fact to the extent this event keeps some of the CBP from doing their regular work, that’s a benefit.

            1. “The Atlanta police are working 12-hr. shifts for a wk. That could easily be made up in comp time the other 51 wks. The CBP can easily shift work from elsewhere; in fact to the extent this event keeps some of the CBP from doing their regular work, that’s a benefit.”

              You seem to be confusing a random, un-supported assertion as “proof”. Getting real tired of your bullshit.

      3. “That is a theory in need of a LOT of proof.”

        You need proof that people can’t be in two places at the same time?

  9. “It makes sense that federal law enforcement, with all its capabilities, has a central role in efforts to make the Super Bowl as safe an experience as possible for fans and its host community,” writes Kayyem in the Post.

    “It makes sense that Enterprise Car Rental, with all its capabilities, has a central role in efforts to make the Super Bowl as convenient an experience as possible for fans and its host community.”

    “It makes sense that Dominos Pizza, with all its capabilities, has a central role in efforts to make the Super Bowl as delicious an experience as possible for fans and its host community.”

    1. “It makes sense that Dominos Pizza, with all its capabilities, has a central role in efforts to make the Super Bowl as delicious an experience as possible for fans and its host community.”

      Domino’s HAS NO capabilities in that regard. There are three choices… it can be fast, it can be cheap, or it can be good. Pick any two. Domino’s is fast and cheap.

      1. And yet it’s still way better than Little Ceasers.

  10. LOL – people love to act like they are “libertarians” until you dare criticize the NFL, endless war or cherry-picked government benefits that they haven’t deemed to be “entitlements,” and then we see how many of them are really just Republicans.

  11. Basic security for an event like this should not be paid by the government.

    There is another level which can only be provided by the government.

    There is no billing department.

    1. If holding this sporting event is going to impinge on the public, check points etc, the government is bound to get involved.

  12. I’ll suggest that the costs should be divided up. The risk from people who would attack the Super Bowl because it is an NFL event should be addressed/paid by the NFL. The risk from people who would attack the Super Bowl because it is American should be addressed/paid by American government. And protecting the tourists from criminals like muggers and pickpockets should be covered by the locality.

  13. Well you could a security tax on tickets, hotels, restaurants, transportation or anyone else benefitting from the game and it’s security. But a better idea would be to let everyone carry guns.

  14. Mr. Boehm, you’re wrong on this one. This is no doubt one of the biggest possible targets because of it’s emotional and national importance; the biggest sporting event the year without a doubt. I’m normally for companies providing their own security but in this case normal security companies simply couldn’t handle. As a result of that it falls under national security issue because of the high target value of the superbowl.

    1. “As a result of that it falls under national security issue because of the high target value of the superbowl.”

      Lame assertions are lame.

      1. Lame objections are lamer

        1. James Pollock|2.3.19 @ 9:05PM|#
          “Lame objections are lamer”

          Objections to lame assertions are automatically not lame, but blithering idiots like you can barely understand that.

          1. So… my comment is not lame? Cool.

    2. If there was no security, nothing major would probably happen. If something major we’re to happen even with security, security probably won’t stop it.

    3. it falls under national security issue

      I guess the phrase “national security” to the right is like the phrase “living constitution” to the left. There isn’t anything that the phrase doesn’t justify!

  15. OT:
    PG&E (the major energy provider for CA) has been pretty much guaranteed profitability in that it runs up whatever costs it pleases and then asks a gov’t agency to rubber stamp rate increases to keep it solvent.
    Well, the company is definitely to blame for a gas-pipeline fire some years back, and may be liable for one or more of the forest fires over the last two years.
    Owners and insurers are trying to recover costs, putting PG&E into bankruptcy. Watermelons are finding out what companies do when things go bad.
    Because of that guaranteed profitability, PG&E has been fronting the money for all sorts of ‘renewable energy’ scams, including a huge Buffett-owned solar panel installation. Bankruptcy means those contracts are out the door, along wih monbeam’s claim of ‘50% renewable by X/X!’:

    “PG&E has asked a bankruptcy judge for the authority to nullify billions of dollars in contracts with solar and wind farms”
    […]
    “It’s not just business. The state’s environmental and climate goals are at stake,” said John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, a non-profit group in Sacramento.”
    https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/01/30/
    what-happens-to-californias-solar-and-
    wind-energy-with-pge-bankruptcy/

  16. The primary role of government is to protect its citizenry. I honestly think that providing security at the Super Bowl is a legitimate expenditure that most taxpayers would approve of. The Super Bowl outside of the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics is the most watched sporting event in the world. The high visibility of the event makes it a prime target for a major terrorist attack, much like the bombing in manchester. Mercedes benz stadium holds 71,000 people. The damage and loss of human life of a bombing there would be catastrophic.
    The article itself points out that it is a 1500 security personal job. What private firm can provide and coordinate 1500 staff? G4S/Wakenhut attempted to provide supplemental support to Metro PD in London when they hosted the summer Olympics, and even that was a cluster. Also take into account private security personal only have the same authority as private citizens. In the event of a major security breach, the very first thing that any private security officers are going to do is call the police.
    I know where you are coming from that is seems on its face frivolous for the taxpayer to foot the security bill for a major sporting event, but if you look into it a little closer, it is not uncommon at all and many taxpayers are completely unfazed by it. This article is wrong

    1. What private firm can provide and coordinate 1500 staff?

      you’re kidding, right?

      1. ^+1, once again.

    2. Kevin Milstead|2.4.19 @ 12:50AM|#
      “The primary role of government is to protect its citizenry.”
      No, it isn’t. It is to apply the laws uniformly and enforce contracts. Nowhere is there a claim that the government ‘protect its citizenry’ from other than foreign powers. That’s one of the reasons for A2.

      “I honestly think that providing security at the Super Bowl is a legitimate expenditure that most taxpayers would approve of.”
      So what?

      1. A terrorist attack on a high profile event is likely coming from a foreign power.

    3. “The Super Bowl outside of the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics is the most watched sporting event in the world.”

      It’s not like there’s ever been a terrorist attack at a sporting event in Atlanta.

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  18. Does the NFL get a choice in whether the Super Bowl is a SEAR level event? Can it refuse the extra security? If not, what are the limits of fees that can be imposed on a private entity for the enhanced security the federal government decides to provide? In principle, I am not sure how this is different from a state university demanding a student group pay for extra security for inviting to speak on campus someone the school determines is too controversial. It gives the government far too much control and opportunities for extortion.

    Secondly, the security arrangements for the venue are a contract negotiation between the NFL and the owners of the venue. Since the Super Bowl is considered a plum event to host, the NFL has some obvious leverage in negotiations.

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  20. As mentioned by a couple others above, the NFL isn’t a target because it’s the NFL, it’s a target because it’s a national symbol.

    The NFL can and should provide funding and manpower for the routine security of the game. The extra anti-terrorism security provided because the NFL is considered a valuable target for people who hate the USA should be provided by the Feds, etc.

    Governments routinely use these sporting events and facilities as an excuse to jack up taxes on out of towners. Hotel taxes, rental car taxes, etc. This is just the flip side of that.

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