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The ol' annual Super Bowl shakedown

Game is a marketing tool for stadium-hungry team owners as host city coughs up freebies

U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis
U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis

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.

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U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis
U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis

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.

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Comments
31

These examples are just a recitation of the abuse the NFL heaps on its "host" cities, as the cities beg for more. Really makes you wonder, doesn't it? The "honor" of hosting the Super Bowl is nothing a rational city government would ever bring upon itself. But who says those NFL cities behave rationally? San Diego is now going through the withdrawal pangs of a city that lost its team, and some folks will never recover.

Oh, BTW, did you mean polite escorts for the billionaire team owners, or "police" escorts? The latter is as likely as the former. What better fanfare for a team owner than to have squad cars escort his limo to the stadium, and have uniformed cops walk him and his entourage to his seats?

Feb. 4, 2018

Visduh: I meant police, but it's probably both: polite police escorts for billionaire owners. Answering all comments, as I do at age 81 with shaky fingers, leads to typos. But much younger commenters make typos, too.

It's pathetic that some folks will never recover from the Chargers' departure. I know some whose very identity was tied up in the Chargers. It's all they could talk about. They assumed everybody had their identities tied up in the team. I hope they didn't die. Best, Don Bauder

Feb. 4, 2018

I had a strong hunch you meant "police." But then, that is more outrageous than just some polite young folks, most of them attractive young women. I can only assume the local cops love this, because they are all called out for the game, and many are getting overtime at three times the regular rate of pay.

Feb. 4, 2018

Visduh: Overtime police pay is one of several similar reasons why some economists say a city actually loses money on a Super Bowl. Almost all sports economists I interview say that the Super Bowl brings to a city about one-tenth of what the NFL and city promoters claim. Best, Don Bauder

Feb. 4, 2018

Overtime pay is 1 1/2 times the regular pay.

Feb. 5, 2018

Actually, it is not. Federal law dictates that overtime is pay at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay. It can be more, but not less.

Feb. 5, 2018

danfogel: I think AlexClarke was talking about San Diego police. Best, Don Bauder

Feb. 6, 2018

Yes, and even though SDPD pay is in their contract, Federal labor laws still apply; overtime is pay at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay. One would have to believe that the definition of OT is in the contact, as well as how it is paid.

Feb. 6, 2018

danfogel: Are you suggesting that if cops' overtime pay is only 1.5 times regular pay, the abundance of police overtime during Super Bowls should not be considered a major factor in judging whether Super Bowls pay off? Best, Don Bauder

Feb. 7, 2018

don bauder Actually, I am not suggesting anything. Mine was simply to the comment made by AlexClarke. And that is that OT laws are regulated by the government and that it is required to a minimum rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay, but can be more. I was and am making no other comment on any other subject.

Feb. 7, 2018

AlexClarke: Is that what it. is for San Diego police? Best, Don Bauder

Feb. 6, 2018

Why do taxpayers pay billions for football stadiums?

None

Click here to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e22yH5hUQ_A

Feb. 4, 2018

Ponzi: Fantastic! John Oliver is the greatest comedian these days, perhaps in decades. He deflates the pro football scam completely. I hope everyone watches this. Best, Don Bauder

Feb. 4, 2018

Stadiums: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Stadiums: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Click on image to play the video...

Feb. 4, 2018

Ponzi: Oliver is a genius with perfect comic timing. Best, Don Bauder

Feb. 4, 2018

FIFA and the World Cup: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

FIFA and the World Cup: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Click on image to play the video...

Feb. 4, 2018

Ponzi: FIFA is a thoroughly crooked operation. Oliver brings that out perfectly. Best, Don Bauder

Feb. 4, 2018

Why do taxpayers pay billions for football stadiums?

Why do taxpayers pay billions for football stadiums?

Click on image to play the video...

NOTE: This is the same video as the "Why do taxpayers pay billions for football stadiums?" above in my first post. (Learning how to embed videos in The Reader blogs)

Feb. 4, 2018

Ponzi: She hits some of the main points well. Best, Don Bauder

Feb. 4, 2018

If the waste of money wasn't so funny it would be tragic. Or is that the other way 'round? We're facing dramatic changes with the Republican tax plan. What harm is a stadium freebee to a billionaire when our elected representatives are giving them more money than they could possibly count.

"If you can count your money, you don't have a billion dollars." - J. Paul Getty

Feb. 4, 2018

swell: After all those tax plans, beginning with Reagan, that distributed money from the middle class to the superrich, I didn't think they would do it again. But they came up with the worst plan of all. Best, Don Bauder

Feb. 4, 2018

So often when some controversial use of funds comes along, a reporter will dutifully say how the misuse of government money is going to "hurt people." All this public funding of sports palaces falls, or should fall, into that category. To take that to an extreme, would putting $ millions into a stadium not take food out of the mouths of babes, medical care away from the critically ill, shelter away from the innocent homeless children, teachers out of the classroom, and on and on and on? Of course. But how often has a newspaper, news magazine, TV station, or anything else in the mainstream media ever taken up the cause in that way? It must have happened sometime along the line, but on the whole it is rare to nonexistent. No, for those media outlets, sports fans are their mainstay, and they don't rock the boat. Will it ever change? Maybe, but I don't expect a sea change soon.

Feb. 4, 2018

Visduh: There are two answers: 1. Advertising dollars. Hometown newspapers and radio/TV stations don't reveal the scam because they are making money out of it; 2. Staying on the right side of the establishment. The municipal business and social establishment with few exceptions backs the subsidy to the pro team owned by a billionaire. The business and social establishment also enthusiastically backs corporate welfare. They want welfare for those who don't need welfare -- the superrich -- but little or no welfare for the poor who need it. Best, Don Bauder

Feb. 4, 2018

Don: I would really like to see just how many "social establishments" have come and gone in the East Village since the opening of Petco Park. I'm sure they all thought they could make a killing. Instead, their business got killed. Some went quickly, and some lasted years, but many have come and gone.

Feb. 4, 2018

Trophy's Bar and Grill and The Tilted Kilt are gone from East Village. Homelessness is a crises there now even while there are many vacancies in those high rises.

Feb. 5, 2018

Ponzi: I always thought very little would be done about the homeless problem until it started hitting the pocketbooks of those in the establishment. Best, Don Bauder

Feb. 5, 2018

Those are the two big ones. There have been many others. I believe there has been about three or four others--in the same spot directly across the street from where the Tilted Kilt used to be--that have all gone belly up. I also think that address is again empty.

Feb. 5, 2018

aardvark: What about the failure of Horton Plaza? And the fact that the city paid for tearing down a big part of it? Who uses that park that was opened up with the tear-down? Up until quite recently, the U-T was hailing Horton Plaza as a great business-government cooperative project. The U-T was claiming that for about two decades when it was clear Horton was not a success. Best, Don Bauder

Feb. 5, 2018

Don: Wasn't Horton Plaza already failing even before Petco Park opened in 2004?

Feb. 5, 2018

aardvark: Yes, big retailers began moving out of Horton Plaza not all that long after it opened. The mix of stores there has not been the kind that brings shoppers. Best, Don Bauder

Feb. 5, 2018

aardvark: That would make an enlightening study. Also, it would be interesting to see how many condos in the ballpark district are owned by people, often rich foreigners, who only stay there a couple of weeks a year. Best, Don Bauder

Feb. 5, 2018

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