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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5828/owners-should-be-seen-and-not-heard/

Owners Should Be Seen and Not Heard

October 30, 2006 by

Suppose the chief executive of a public company announced that he would fine any shareholder $25,000 if they publicly criticized any aspect of the company’s management. Would shareholders–to say nothing of the press–support such a policy? Of course not.

Unless you’re talking about professional sports. Not only are such policies routine, but the sports press openly applauds acts of censorship. Newly-installed National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell recently fined Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney a record $25,000 for criticizing game officials after his team lost a close game. Rooney said the officials “ought to be ashamed of themselves.” Such criticism is taboo under Roger Goodell’s rule.And that’s how it should be, wrote Peter King of Sports Illustrated:

Most of Goodell’s advisers wanted him to give Rooney a pass. But Goodell was firm: No one had more respect for Rooney than Goodell, but there had to be equal treatment for all, and certainly the world would be watching this one. And Goodell felt not only that Rooney should be fined, but also that an owner should be held to a higher standard than players and coaches. So he told his staff that he was fining Rooney $25,000.

Goodell made it clear that this would be the fine owners would have to pay if they crossed the line with their comments about officials. He figures that if they make those kinds of comments without fear of retribution, what is to stop coaches and players from doing the same? Good call. Excellent call, in fact. More than just the fine of Rooney, the action should trumpet the fact that there will be no sacred cows in Goodell’s world, which is the way it has to be.

I suspect King wouldn’t be so pro-censorship if he was fined for criticizing his various employers, including SI and NBC Sports. Of course, King is just an employee; Rooney is an equity partner in the NFL. Goodell is the employee. But there’s nothing more romanticized among sports writers than the authoritarian commissioner.

King’s choice of words is also telling. He speaks of Goodell having no “sacred cows,” meaning Rooney, the NFL’s senior owner. But according to Goodell and King, game officials are indeed sacred cows who are beyond any public criticism from the people who pay their salaries.

This is the same mentality that led regulators to pass anti-takeover rules designed to insulate incumbent management from outside criticism. And if the business press was run by the Peter Kings of the world, the SEC would no doubt prohibit shareholder criticism of management outside “approved” channels. (Just like campaign finance “reform”!)


Dan Coleman October 31, 2006 at 7:15 am

While I agree with you that outright censorship is rarely (if ever) a good policy in an organization, I can’t help but notice some relevant disanalogies. Namely, the NFL doesn’t use guns to force membership or payment beyond voluntary association, and anyone involved with the league is free to leave at any point.

Supporting Goodell’s ‘censorship’ may be similar to the mentality that would lead to legislation against action x, but it is lacking the key ingredient of aggressive force.

On a side note, it is my opinion that if the NFL continues to be too cheap to hire full-time refs, then it’s going to deserve the criticism that comes when the refs fail to do an adequate job.

AJ October 31, 2006 at 8:00 am

As a private organization the NFL is welcome to impose whatever rules or regulations it wishes on its franchises. Any team owner is welcome to leave and start their own league if they wish.

Mark Brabson October 31, 2006 at 9:49 am

I would agree with the previous two posters. The NFL, and all other professional sports organizations, are private organizations. Nobody was forced to buy a franchise or to take private employment with the league or with a franchise. If I were Commissioner of the League, I would probably have instituted similar action against the team owner. I am pretty sure their are official channels within the league for filing complaints against officials. Berating officials publicly just brings discredit on the league as a whole.

As the previous poster said, you don’t like the rules, go start your own league.

quasibill October 31, 2006 at 10:09 am

I’ll agree that, to the extent that anyone’s speech is actually being curtailed, it’s not a political issue. The owners in the NFL certainly do get richly rewarded for their participation, and in the end, they are the ones who hire the commish.

However, I do take issue with calling the NFL (or any of the other major leagues) a private organization. They most definitely are not – they enjoy a near monopoly in their niche (sport) due to government subsidization of their capital structure. Governments (mostly municipal, but some state as well) have built massive stadiums for these owners that they couldn’t have (or wouldn’t have) paid for by themselves, thereby raising barriers to market entry for competitors.

There’s a reason why upstart leagues like the USFL fail miserably, and it has less to do with comparative management ability than it does with the artificially high capital intensiveness involved in existing leagues.

As usual, if there exists something that looks like a monopoly, it’s not because of market forces, but because of government. If these franchises were forced to finance their own stadiums (and in some cases, training facilities), it’s unlikely they’d be offering anything remotely like the product they currently do.

FairTaxGuy November 20, 2006 at 5:21 pm

I’m glad I found this post. I agree with pretty much all of the comments here but to expand upon what quasibill said, the revenue sharing aspect of pro-sports is not private. Why should a successful market in baseball such as the Chicago Cubs (remember, successful market vs. the team!) have to share their successful earnings with a team like the Devil Rays? If the market in a particular locale is not conducive for success then it should fail!

This is the reason I hear more and more of people claiming to not like America’s sport anymore because you can have the $200mil payroll Yankees and then the $30mil Devil Rays. It might be a private league that Steinbrenner can choose to get out of at any time but it’s still based on socialism and indoctrinates our people with this concept.

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