When I was writing my “Behind the Lockout” series on the NFL labor dispute, a few folks took issue with my criticizing a “private” business, especially when I supported the players’ demands for the league to open its books. Well, if the NFL is a “private business,” then we may have to abandon our support for capitalism. Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post describes just the latest example of the NFL’s true nature:
Consider how Minnesota Vikings owner Zygmunt Wilf is treating the residents who support him. For months he has been insinuating that unless he gets enough public funding for a new stadium, he may move the team to Los Angeles.
Under the latest proposal favored by the Vikings, Minnesotans would pony up $650 million so Wilf can have a new $1 billion palace in the Arden Hills suburb of St. Paul. Ramsey County would get hit with a $350 million tab via a sales tax increase. The state, which is facing a $5 billion budget shortfall, would contribute another $300 million. The Vikings would contribute $407 million, but would pay no rent at all, and would get all revenues from the stadium, including parking, signage and naming rights. What a deal for the public.
That’s not all. The county would be on the hook for $1.5 million a year in operating expenses; the Vikings would be exempt from any state sales taxes on the building materials; and the state would be required to make improvements to roads and infrastructure that could cost $240 million more.
The Vikings and their allies are hoping to shove this monstrosity down the throat of residents without a public vote, knowing full well they don’t want it. According to a Minneapolis Star Tribune poll, 75 percent of residents oppose using any public money for a stadium. Governor Mark Dayton has expressed reservations, and a group of county residents who object to a “Vikings Tax” are trying to force a public referendum.
After researching and writing on this topic for a few months now, I’ve concluded the NFL should be treated as a government agency. It is a private business in name only. In form and substance — from the “commissioner” to its government-funded developmental system — it is a creature of the state.