Today is the day economists identify as one of the major global scams: the Super Bowl. Last year, 106.7 million watched it, down from the record 114.4 million in 2015. Given that the Sunday-night, Monday-night, and Thursday-night TV audiences for NFL games were down 9 percent this season, probably at least 100 million will watch this one — maybe more.
The league uses the big TV audience to get governments to subsidize stadiums for billionaire team owners. Over the 30-year payment plan, Minnesota taxpayers will pay $678 million toward the billion-dollar stadium where the game will be played.
One trick the league plays to get governments to subsidize stadiums is to promise the host city a Super Bowl. The league and local promoters will claim that the game brings in $300 million to $600 million and more to the local community, along with that worldwide TV audience of more than 100 million. Economists recommend people move the decimal point one digit to the right: if the claim is $400 million to the city, $40 million is more like it. Some economists say a host city actually loses money on the game.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune on February 3 revealed the wish list that the National Football League demands of the host city. There are nearly 200 services that must be provided to the league at no cost to the NFL, says the paper. Based on what the league requested, the newspaper said Minneapolis will likely provide 35,000 free parking spaces, free advertising in local media, polite escorts for those billionaire team owners, hundreds of hotel rooms, 14,000 feet of barricades, the NFL Network on local hotel TVs, ten premier-quality buses for eight days, plus safety and catering expenses.
Much of these costs will be covered by a $53 million fundraising campaign by local citizens. The league retains ticket revenue from the game, which could be $100 million. And these tickets aren’t subject to any taxes as a result of a move by the state legislature earlier. “It’s not right. It’s extortion. These are big shakedown artists,” said one legislator.