Why No Smart City Would Want the NFL


“The NFL is good at fleecing taxpayers,” says ESPN columnist Gregg Easterbrook, author of The King of Sports: Football’s Impact on America. “It’s about a billion dollars a year I’ve calculated in public subsidies to NFL owners and this is a group that consists almost entirely of billionaires and yet receiving significant public subsidies every year.”

The NFL raked in over $9 billion in revenues last season and the league is pushing team owners to triple that mark over the next decade. 

With the league’s overwhelming success, many cities are eager to get a piece of the action, often offering billions in public subsidies to attract (or keep) football in their localities. 

But with the NFL making record profits, is it right for cities to spend public money on these type of projects? Especially when over half of NFL team owners are ranked on the Forbes billionaire list?

No where is this illustrated more than in Los Angeles, which has been trying to lure the league back to the area ever since the Raiders and Rams left town 20 years ago. And though numerous economists have demonstrated that sports stadia don’t increase local economic activity, it hasn’t stopped debt-ridden cities like L.A. from approving a $1.2 billion dollar stadium deal that would be financed with nearly $350 million in taxpayer-backed bonds. 

Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge has been an advocate of bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles and voted along with the rest of his colleagues to approve the stadium deal (whether it ever gets built is remained to be seen). “There’s a beauty to the game and I’d like to see the beauty in Los Angeles. I like what it does for a city when their team wins,” says LaBonge. 

The irony is that even if Los Angeles did manage to build a stadium, there’s no reason to think the NFL may bite. The league has remained notoriously vague on the subject, with NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy telling Reason: “We would like to return to the Los Angeles area, but only if it works for the community and the NFL. There is no timeline but we continue to monitor all stadium-related developments in the area.”

Sports stadiums not only appear to be a bad deal for tax payers, but having a franchise could also hurt loyal fans by making it difficult to watch their hometown team play thanks to the expansion of sports broadcasts and the complexities of NFL blackout rules. 

“If you have a team in Los Angeles and it doesn’t sell out, they can blackout the game in Los Angeles which means you often lose games…and as a fan there’s no payback in that,” says Daniel Durbin, Director of the University of Southern California’s Institute of Sports Media and Society. 

Though local boosters like LaBonge may continue to dream of having the NFL in the city, it’s becoming increasingly clear that not having a team may be the best deal for tax payers and fans alike. 

About 7 minutes.

Produced by Alexis Garcia.

Camera by Tracy Oppenheimer, Zach Weissmueller, Paul Detrick, William Neff, Sharif Matar and Todd Krainin.

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  1. Two teams, not one but two, chose to leave LA. That alone should end any discussion about putting another franchise there. The place is full of distractions and the NFL is not among them. Even the Dodgers, who used to draw 3 million a year, don't do that anymore.

    1. So you think an area with 18 million people would have trouble finding 90,000 to sit in a stadium 8 times a year?

      1. history would say yes. The Raiders sure did. And the Rams moved to Anaheim before leaving the state entirely.

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        3. Would you want to be in an enclosed stadium with 80,000 Raiders fans?

    2. Even the Dodgers, who used to draw 3 million a year, don't do that anymore.

      Huh? The Dodgers usually draw closer to 4 million than 3 million. Now that they're awash in massive amounts of TV money and will probably surpass the Yankees in total team payroll, it wouldn't shock me much to see them pass 4 million next season.

    3. Hey wareagle...research much?
      Go look at the Dodgers attendance numbers for the last 20 years...17 of those years exceeded 3 million and many of those years approached 4 million (3.65, 3.72, 3.81, etc.)----the few years they didn't reach 3 million, they sure as hell were close (2.95, 2.87).

      1. The few years they didn't draw 3 million were after everyone found out Frank McCourt was basically stealing money from the team.

    4. Angelenos aren't begging for a return of a NFL team because the city already has two prominent football teams. USC was dominant for nearly a decade, and UCLA is getting better.

      Plus, the state has two other NFL franchises. I saw a lot of 49ers jerseys in sports bar in the championship game.

      I think the NFL quietly understands that LA sports fans are bandwagon folks. If the team isn't winning, they won't come. A LA football team isn't going to receive the sort of community based support the Packers or the Vikings will receive. If it snowed in LA, ain't no one gonna show up to clean the snow in the stadium (like they do in Green Bay)

      1. Plus, the state has two other NFL franchises.

        Not to mention the Raiders.

        1. Forgot about the Raiders.

          1. To be fair, the Raiders play NFL teams, but that doesn't make them an NFL team.

      2. "LA sports fans are bandwagon folks"


    5. Two teams, not one but two, chose to leave LA.

      Three, if you count the Chargers.

  2. Cities get fleeced, but income tax states make millions.

  3. But ... but ... civic pride! Putting us on the map!

    numerous economists have demonstrated that sports stadia don't increase local economic activity

    This time, it will be different. This time, it will work. This time, the stars will align.

    1. And herald the end of the age of Man as dead gods arise to reclaim what was once theirs.

  4. We just need to elect some top men and it can work.

  5. incidentally, news just broke that the owner of the Rams has bought 60 acres between the Forum and now defunct Hollywood Park in Inglewood.

    1. The WalMart lot?

      1. Check it out!


        I should say that building your own stadium isn't such a bad idea. Jack Kent Cooke, who built the Forum in Inglewood (and also the latest Redskins stadium), built those stadiums with his own money. He always thought it was bad public relations to tax people to put up a stadium...

        Anyway, there's no danger of local government in LA putting up tax money for a stadium. It hasn't happened since the Rams and Raiders left, and it isn't going to happen any time soon in Los Angeles.

      2. A lot of teams like to use LA as a threat--if you don't give us a new stadium, we're moving to LA! ...but it's not like LA is about to give them any money.

        The Chargers are threatening to move to LA, too. Which, because of all the Raiders fans in LA, is a little bit like the Red Sox threatening to move to the Bronx.

        If somebody wants to build their own stadium in LA, more power to 'em. He's not going to have much trouble negotiating something with the former Hollywood Park, and I don't know what else they were going to put on that Wal*Mart site.

        A city like Inglewood turning down all that tax revenue from Wal*Mart was unbelievably stupid--talk about people letting ideology get in the way. Inglewood would get something back from concessions and property taxes this way--although they'll have to concede some taxes in the short term, too, I'm sure.

        In that town? It's probably good investment for them--even if it's libertarian. ...not that there necessarily anything un-libertarian about not taxing something.

        1. Damn thumb posts always contain errors.

          But you know what I mean!

    2. Good. If he can afford those 60 acres that means he doesn't need public money to build a building to house his business.

      As much as I detest jerry Jones, he built his own stadium ( exception of a small percentage).

      1. He is using his own money. Story should have mentioned that

  6. incidentally, news just broke that the owner of the Rams has bought 60 acres between the Forum and now defunct Hollywood Park in Inglewood.

    1. Stan bought it from Walmart.
      I know, it sounds like a joke but I'm not joking.
      When a billionaire buys 60 acres of land in the ghetto of Inglewood...you best believe that an NFL stadium is surely to follow.

  7. I hope the Super Bowl (fuck you, NFL. SUPER BOWL SUPER BOWL SUPER BOWL SUPER BOWL SUPER BOWL SUPER BOWL SUPER BOWL SUPER BOWL) implodes on Sunday from its endless unrestrained bloat, and takes the league with it.

    1. ..in the process creating a Hawkinsian black hole of noxious proportions, but at least their will be enough Velveeta to last eternity.

  8. Schumer getting destroyed on Twitter

    Love it when NY hosts the #SuperBowl: met @Giants @TerrellThomas24 & talked w/ Joe Benigno of @WFAN660 @JoeandEvan

    Cookiemuffen ?@Cookiemuffen 10m
    @SenSchumer Are you going to get the posse out to arrest conservatives, libertarians & tea party members?

    ChicaFromChicago ?@3GoMigos 3m
    @SenSchumer Will you back a bill that ensures least talented players get their chance to participate in a Super Bowl? #LevelPlayingField

    1. New York isn't hosting anything. New Jersey is.

      1. New York is hosting a lot of things. Just not the actual game.

  9. I think having an NFL team is a great thing for a city.
    Cities which have NFL teams are doing amazingly well from a fiscal standpoint.
    Look at places like Detroit, Oakland and Cleveland.
    They are thriving...and you can too!

  10. Fuck Art Modell.

    1. You're sitting in a room with Art Modell, Hitler, and Pol pot. You're armed with a gun but it only has two bullets. What do you do?

      Shoot Modell twice just to be sure.

      1. this is a waste. you shoot the other two, and then beat modell with the gun until your arm is numb.

  11. LA had an NFL stadium offered without subsidy 30 years ago. The Dodger owner at the time, Peter O'Malley, offered to build a football stadium on the land in Chavez Ravine next to Dodger stadium. The parking lots and access roads could be used by both stadia. It was vetoed by then city council member Mark Ridley Thomas who insisted that any football stadium be at the Colosseum in his black council district. O'Malley sold the Dodgers a few years later.

  12. I've lived in several cities which have NFL franchises. It's fun and one of the few things I'm actually willing to pay taxes for.

    Libertarians should think twice before coming out as anti-NFL. A whole lot of people like their team a lot more than they like party affiliations.

    1. one of the few things I'm actually willing to pay taxes for

      If only there were some way for private investors to gauge how many people like you live in a given area and would be willing to help defray the cost of building a stadium with eventual ticket and concession purchases.

      But since there's not, we might as well get the undifferentiated mass of taxpayers to pony up for it.

      1. The NFL just can't do science like that, man! There is no way to really understand this without the sweet, sweet help of the gummint.

        I am absolutely certain that I speak for the entire libertarian world when I say we just didn't understand the power of the NFL. Like national defense, roadz, social security, Medicare, and free ponies, the NFL should be included as an entitlement to all people of our great land.

        I mean, ceding the point on publicly-funded stadiums would pick us up, what, 10-20 votes? Awesome! Still no women, though.

  13. Why did the Raiders and Rams leave? Because even with TV blackouts, they couldn't get Angelenos to go to their games except when they were doing really well (LA is just a giant bandwagon). There is a lot to do in LA; most people would rather go to the beach... or to Universal Studios... or to Magic Mountain... or to a thousand other fun options... than waste their weekend watching a mediocre team lose.

    The NFL probably makes more in TV revenue from LA than it would make from having a home team there; that's why it's not pushing for an LA team.

  14. LA is the only city with a XFL, WNBA and a MLS Championship.

    We're quite satisfied, really.

    1. Not sure WNBA has a final that can be considered championship in nature

  15. my bf's cousin just got a new green Volkswagen Beetle Convertible by working from a laptop... see it here ?????? http://www.works77.???m

  16. my best friend's sister-in-law makes $70 /hour on the computer . She has been without work for 7 months but last month her check was $12532 just working on the computer for a few hours. you can look here


  17. Good luck to 'em... but building a football stadium won't guarantee that any NFL team will move there or be awarded to them. Ask San Antonio.

  18. Easpecially Denver?

  19. Small cities don't have enough economy to support big sports

    1. Green Bay and Buffalo would like to have a word with you.

  20. For the love of God, when you repost these articles, put up a version without the old comments!

    1. Ted, view it as an opportunity!

    2. Especially when half of them are adbots.

  21. OK, a re-run, so are you ready for some OT?

    Private energy company screws up big time, goes bankrupt!
    "Miles of unspoiled desert lands were scraped and bulldozed to make way for sprawling arrays of solar panels. Desert tortoises required mass relocation, and kit fox burrows were destroyed. Surprise troves of American Indian artifacts found in the Mojave Desert were moved to a San Diego warehouse, where they remain."

    Well, no; here's the headline:
    "California solar projects plan undergoing major overhaul"
    We (taxpayers) are in hock for $1.6Bn. The planning and construction were rushed (was that a contested district?), the thing is using 'way more natural gas than expected, burning up birds, and it turns out that the earthmoving process released huge amounts of C into the air.
    Now it seems, once again, the lying bastard lied, this time about 'renewable energy'!

    1. Why do you hate civilization, Sevo?

  22. This is just someone who's jealous their region doesn't have an NFL team.

    Don't think they help the economies of the cities they're in? Look at what our beloved Leos have done for the fortunes of the City of Detroit since moving back from Pontiac!


  23. my co-worker's mother-in-law makes $84 hourly on the internet . She has been out of work for 8 months but last month her pay check was $13455 just working on the internet for a few hours. see post ....

    =============== http://www.netjob70.com

  24. Dude, that makes no sense at all man.


    1. I know, this thread is 7 months old!

  25. Forcibly transferring 10s of billions of dollars from the poor and middle class to a few dozen sports team-owning fat cats is the price we pay for civilization.

    GO TEAM.

  26. I stopped even pretending to care about sports over 10 years ago, and now I have these awkward moments when normal people start talking about sports and I have nothing to say.

  27. Building a stadium with only a prospect of luring an NFL team there?

    Yeah, ask the people of San Antonio how that worked out for them.

  28. my neighbor's mother-in-law makes $84 every hour on the internet . She has been laid off for nine months but last month her paycheck was $18806 just working on the internet for a few hours. more tips here........

    ================ http://www.netjob70.com

  29. A nearly two year old story/thread? Even my orphans can churn out more original content than that! Harrumph. [adjusts monocle]

    1. And I've already got one complaint about the old comments being left up!

      1. Yeah, that was awesome. A voice from the past speaking to our present pain!

      2. Ted, re: Neil Diamond. Sorry.

        I was trying to be funny, hence the "Ted's". (I know how much you enjoy the stray apostrophe.)

        I blame my whiff on my recent surgery, and not on my inherent lack of funnyness.

  30. My interest in American football begins and ends with the lady cheerleaders. I should have known better than to pull up this recycled article.

  31. "Obama: Iran nuclear deal, prisoner release show the power of diplomacy"- Washington Post

    The original link didn't have the "Obama:" leader, and the WaPo people must have realized that kind of epic-bullshitting only ever sounded plausible from the mouth of the Great One.

    If you want even more-amusing exercises in media-spin.... try the NYT version... where the headline "U.S. Imposes New Sanctions Over Iran Missile Tests" is coupled with Obama's press conference celebrating his War-preventing(?) foriegn-policy 7-dimensional chess move of giving Iran $100 billion in exchange for ...well, some self-congratulatory PR, at best.

    No one seems to even suggest there's anything optically-ugly about handing a regime $100bn in exchange for "hostages". Especially one that's spent the last 4 months waving nuclear-capable missile tests in your face just to ensure no one else on the planet gets the impression that the US is "compelling Iran" to do anything.

    The narrative of "Obama, the great Diplomat" is one too-absurd for even these two government mouthpieces to pump for very long.

    1. shorter=

      there's a reason all of this has been covered over the weekend.

      If this were some fabulous accomplishment coming as the result of the great-labors of talented diplomats.... these newspapers wouldn't be burying this stuff in the sunday papers. its more a 'write the story the press-secretary demanded'-type obligation being fulfilled.

      1. I still want to know what happened with Robert Levinson.

        He's one of the longest held hostages in US history.

        1. If only we had a real media instead of a bunch of Block Yomomma ball bag lickers. Maybe we'd know.

          1. Stop it. No one want it, no on likes it. No one gets it. Stop trying to sell 'block yomamma'. It is really annoying. There are more derogatory names for this guy than any president in history, which in itself is hilarious, and all of them are better than 'block yomamma'. Every single one of them.

            1. Jesus 2.0?

              The LightBringer?

    2. But won't it all be worth to finally check the power of the aggressive, human rights-violating state of Israel? Peace in our time!

  32. Speaking of the NFL, the Seahawks are getting their lunch handed to them so far.

    1. Go Panthers!

      -Reason's sole Panthers fan

      1. I'd like to see them win it all.

      2. As Reason's sole Cardinals fan, we're going to have a WAR OF WORDS this week.

        Go Cards!

    2. It's a hot lunch.

  33. As long as we're talking football, the Seahawks looked pretty good against the Saints there, didn't they? I don't think they'll have too much trouble handling San Fran, but running into the Broncos in the Superbowl is going to hurt. Oh, well, at least they looked good this year - probably next year they'll slip a notch and go back to struggling against moderately-good teams like the Giants and the Carolina Panthers. They might make the playoffs, but it will take an act of God to win one - a kicker missing a chipshot or a last-second goalline INT or something equally improbable.

  34. Jesus - when is the ref going to step in and stop the fight? This is murder.

    1. Seachicken BBQ

      1. Spread was 2

  35. Going after the Canook.


    1. He needs a more convincing human mask to cover up his true form.

    2. just wait until he gets to Plan B where he starts asserting that Ted Cruz is probably a fag

  36. "Though local boosters like LaBonge"

    So it'll be paid for with marijuana moneys?


  37. I'm glad I DVRed Super Bowl 1 on the NFL channel. Turning this blowout off.

    1. Fun factoid: the term "Super Bowl" hadn't even been created yet when the game was played.

  38. OT:
    Did I miss it? Guy who beat the crap out of an Uber driver is suing because the driver never should have picked up as asshole as drunk as he was.

    "Drunken Exec Who Punched Uber Driver in Viral Video Is Suing the Driver for $5 Million"
    "Finally, Golden says Caban is to blame, not him, since Caban never should have driven someone who was so apparently wasted. In short, Caban had it coming."

    I'll bet some of you thought I was joking!
    Now, there are at least two stupid people here; is his lawyer dumber than him?

    1. The lawyer might be the clever one if he is getting paid by the hour.

      1. I hope so! I'd love to see him drop a dime on someone who is giggling at him the entire time.

  39. There's a new federal lawsuit against an Oklahoma policy for foster parents. They have to sign an agreement basically not to carry guns around their foster children.

    "One reason law-abiding adults get handgun-carry licenses, of course, is to defend not just themselves but also their families. But the agreement bars foster parents and prospective adoptive parents who have such licenses from having guns available to defend either themselves or their foster children."

    1. What the world needs is more deterrents to foster care

  40. Fortunately for LA taxpayers, Kroenke is building his own stadium.

  41. Inglewood has no tax base.

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