Stop Subsidizing Sports!

From stadium deals to college teams Olympics, why are taxpayers forced to pony up cash for athletic ventures that don't benefit them?


Let's talk about "sports"—that thing where we gather around to watch a muscular stranger put a regulation-size ball in a specific location.

Why are taxpayers forced to pony up cash for athletic ventures that don't benefit them? Franchise owners routinely extort massive stadium subsidies through threats of relocation and fake promises of economic revitalization. Universities jack up student rates to subsidize athletic programs that should be self-sustaining. And the Olympics is economically devastating to every municipality foolish enough to get suckered by one of the oldest scams around.

Mostly Weekly host Andrew Heaton explores the sports phenomenon and why we should quit throwing other people's money at it.

Watch past episodes.

Script by Sarah Siskind with writing assistant from Andrew Heaton and David Fried.
Edited by Austin Bragg and Siskind.
Produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg.
Theme Song: Frozen by Surfer Blood.

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  1. I just want to take a minute to point out that the Athletic Department at Kansas State University is fully funded through it’s own marketing, licensing, and ticket sales without any contributions from the University general fund. Go Cats! and… SPOOOORRRTS!!!

    1. Arkansas’ athletic department gives money to the rest of the university.

      And we actually win something every now and then.

      1. I want to be really pissed at you for this slight, but I actually grew up a Razorbacks fan, so I can’t be too mad. (Closest D1 school to my hometown) Worth noting, in the past 2 decades K-State has won 2 conference championships and 4 divisional championships, Ark has won 0 conference championships and 3 divisional. The 2011 and 2015 seasons’ bowl games definitely speak to your side of the argument though.

        1. I was really referring more to our track titles.

          In football, KState has been better over the last 20 years. No arguments here. Snyder is a god.

          1. I wish it were so; then he might coach forever.

  2. I would guess it has something to do with the 99% deciding they want to get something too, like the 1% who get subsidized opera, ballet , art museums and orchestras.

    1. Congratulations!
      You’re the Occutard Of the Day.

  3. Button your shirt, you goddamn slob.

    1. You’d think he could afford a sport-coat that fit also.

  4. moar sportz gibberish, please.

  5. I agree, but this should extend to things like museums and symphonies and such (which in the past Reason has supported the government supporting).

    True to its cosmotarian nature, Reason singles out sports because they are enjoyed by the common man. But take their museums? That might offend the wrong people.

    1. Fuck off, effete slaver!

    2. Agreed. Hey, I LIKE museums. Nevertheless, if we are going to make sports earn their way, let’s do the same for nasty intellectual in-jokes disguised as ‘art’. The very least we can do is deny publicly supported museum space to bullshit like Seranno’s PISS CHRIST or Duchamp’s FOUNTAIN.

    3. Jeremy,
      Shouldn’t you be commenting on Yahoo Sports daily update on What Is Colin Kapernick Up To Today?
      You wouldn’t want the other hillbillies to feel un=loved.

  6. $Bazzilions of tax dollars for stadiums for ritualized violence, and we the taxpayers are forced to pay it… Baseball, football, etc.; they are all ritualized violence?
    Can we just spare a bare few million for ritualized sex, too, at the local naked-titty-dancing club? A litlle 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!

    1. Recycled comment above deserves to be accompanied by a pretty cool-snarky response from last time…

      BYODB|6.15.17 @ 12:58PM|#

      Ritualized sex is FAR less likely to result in cracked ribs & broken spines & damaged brains than football

      In that case, I submit that you’re doing it wrong…?

  7. What I like is tax payers fund NFL stadiums. Then NFL sells some of those games to ESPN or the NFL who in many cases charge the very tax payers who paid for the stadium to watch the games they paid for on cable.
    And then (you really didn’t think it was over yet did you?) they make tax payers pay ICE (because they had nothing better to do during Obama’s 8 years) to police the internet for evil tax payers streaming the games (pirates, yar) to other evil tax payers who refuse to pay to watch what they already paid for.
    The same applies to the Olympics where you can get good coverage beyond figure skating and gymnastics of your tax dollars in action as long as you pay more to the right corporations benefiting from your tax dollars.

  8. Franchise owners routinely extort massive stadium subsidies through threats of relocation

    This is where our sports business model in the US is so flawed. The solution is relatively easy – promotion and relegation like soccer in Europe. The stadiums get built (and yes with taxpayer money for the bond/land stuff) but only to the size that the local community can/will regularly fill. If the teams are good, they are rewarded with better schedules against better teams and bigger media contracts in bigger leagues and the town does get local prestige benefits and payroll can go up. If they aren’t good, they get punished the reverse – but they don’t leave town except in really unusual circumstances where a new team usually comes in the next year. The leagues themselves are owned by the teams in them – but the specific teams change each year with promotion/relegation.

    And the result is just a ton of competitive professional and semi-professional soccer. In England, 110 fully-professional teams, 220+ semi-professional teams, and 5000+ amateur teams with a chance to actually become professional via promotion. In Germany, there are 31,000+ teams (most obviously amateur) in the same type of system. In both, only the professional/semi teams have a stadium – the amateurs play in a public park (like any bar/corporate league here) – but they are all connected to place.

    Course ‘place’ is also why they have so many drunken hooligans.

  9. Stop focusing on the symptoms and start striking at the root of the probem.

    Stop subsidizing the initiation of violence by an elite with a monopoly on morality.

    Stop forfeiting your sovereignty, your right to self govern, and start to embrace a voluntary political paradigm.

  10. I would pretty pissed if I went to a university that felt the need to charge me another $1K/yr just to have sports. I went to LSU, whose sports programs generate a profit, thereby *lowering* the cost of tuition.

    1. That is unfortunately the exception. While UT and A&M and a handful of schools gain money, typically on football or basketball, approximately 80-90% lose money.

      This is in addition to the concerns about making millions in profits for NCAA, television channels, etc, while paying their employees with a scholarship that calculates out to barely above minimum wage and sabotaging their college education due to overwork.

  11. Subsidies in the USA by taxpayers to sports are tiny compared to other gov’t expenditures, & are a minuscule fraction of total spending on sports. However, as in other fields, the fact that there’s little to cut there doesn’t mean the cutting shouldn’t take place, nor that the fact of cutting there will significantly impede the effort to cut elsewhere. Sports are luxuries, so it’s easier to gain sympathy for cutting subsidies to sports than to medicine, for instance.

    In some ways cutting gov’t sports spending will encourage privatiz’n. Get rid of interscholastic sports at gov’t schools, & then not only do private club sports become more attractive, but to some degree private schooling does as well. The same could be achieved by cutting anything out of the curricula of gov’t schools too. But this is a difficult hump to get over; if we try to make gov’t schooling less attractive by simply decreasing services, voters will see the solution as simply restoring the spending & those services, just because gov’t schools are such a big aggregate of services. Same w cutting municipal parks & recreation, where there’s an enormous amount of sunk cost.

    1. Same w cutting municipal parks & recreation, where there’s an enormous amount of sunk cost.

      I understand that most purist libertarians never leave a dank dark basement where they can find justifications for why municipal parks should be turned into parking lots for private land speculation. But parks and open space are almost by definition not ‘sunk costs’. They are ‘undeveloped land’. Sunk costs are CAPITAL. Land is LAND. Capital and land are not the same thing. There is literally zero reason why a public land title/monopoly should be transferred by a public fiduciary into private hands solely for private speculation rather than actual known development/improvement.

      The deliberate conflation of capital/land by neoclassical/marginalist/modern economics (and esp the role of debt in financing both) creates more distortion by both free markets AND govt financing than ANYTHING else. It is why markets in reality often don’t work the way advocates think they should and why monopolies/rentier situations can persist. And it is why govt financing distorts behavior and produces suboptimal private decision-making and crony incentives and intergenerational/environmental problems.

      1. Open space on the ground is undeveloped land. Parks are far from that. They’re landscaped, planted, lighted, have playgrounds, fences, paved paths, benches, swimming pools or ponds, parking lots, all sorts of improvements. Nearby or on the grounds are equipment sheds for the maintenance. Often the mere fact that they’re big or small parcels in the middle of a city indicates a cost just in laying them out with streets around them.

        1. Those minor capital costs are also what increase the land value around the park – whether one uses the park or not. And while it is apparently offensive to libertarians, muni-owned land can recover those costs by charging a land tax on those surrounding parcels so that (at least some of) the muni-incurred cost and imputed land tax on the park itself can be charged to those surrounding who are direct beneficiaries. That cannot occur with private property/markets because, despite all the babble, those just do not know how to actually deal well with externalities (negative or positive). And the transition of property from one to the other will also have an effect on those externalities.

          Doesn’t mean munis/govts know how to deal with them well either – but in their case it is merely because of a)the failure of economics to distinguish land from capital and b)maybe some stupidity.

  12. The biggest “subsidy” to sports in the USA was pointed out to me by Wally Olson: income tax deductibility on schedule A/B of expenditures on sports when they’re part of not-for-profit educational or eleemosynary institutions. This covers everything from donations by wealthy alumni to college sports, to donations for summer camps for poor kids to play sports at. (It also covers profits from sports plowed back into the overall institution as pointed out in the case of LSU above.) I don’t think we’d want to eliminate charitable deductions, even though it does give some institutions an advantage over other biz.

    However, depending how you figure, a comparably large figure could be gotten for the value of land maintained by state & federal gov’t for hunting, fishing, boating, swimming, etc. I mean including the opp’ty cost of selling the parks, not just maintenance costs. Sports economics isn’t exclusively about competitive sports & games. Of course on the municipal level there’s a lot in parks & rec for games too, mostly outdoors.

  13. We should start feeding sports teams owners into woodchippers.
    /just kidding
    /not really

  14. But bread and circuses!

  15. ?that thing where we gather around to watch a muscular stranger put a regulation-size ball in a specific location.

    You’ll likely have more success if you don’t alienate half your audience with meaningless insults. I know you want to demonstrate your class bona fides but maybe you shouldn’t giv e that priority over success.

    1. I’m confused. I actually know so little about football that i think i might be missing the joke.

  16. Why, Reason, do you hate sports? This is why people don’t take libertarians seriously.

  17. ok… share your own point of view… vashikaran love spell

  18. I am confused,
    I think you are doing it wrong…this is I am not saying, it my thought..

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