Great post from SM Oliva via Tom Kirkendal at Houston Clear Thinkers. They both make a point I have been making for years -- that the large growth of major sports team revenues and player salaries is attributable, in large part, to enormous public subsidies
The NFL encapsulates, perhaps better than any other single business entity, the popular conceptions -- and misconceptions -- about capitalism and the nature of markets. The league is the epitome of statist "crony" capitalism. Its franchise operators demand huge government subsidies for stadiums while jealously guarding its prerogatives as a "private" business. Governments (and their media enablers) largely go along with this because they've been led to believe the NFL's popularity is so immense that no respectable city can go without a franchise.
Professional football is the ethanol of the entertainment industry. Since 1990, nearly every NFL franchise has either opened a new stadium, made substantial renovations to existing stadiums, or is currently in the process of obtaining a new stadium. Over this 20-year period the league's franchises obtained over $7 billion in taxpayer subsidies raging from direct taxes to publicly backed bonds. Ten stadiums are 100% government-financed, while another 19 are at least 75% government-financed. Every single franchise receives some amount of government subsidies.
Here is a great way to think about it -- many new NFL stadiums cost in the one billion dollar range. That is a billion dollars for a building that is used 3 hours per day for 10 days a year (8 regular season and 2 preseason games). A billion dollars for a building with 0.3% occupancy. How can a private entity afford such an investment and still pay multi-million dollar salaries to their employees? They can't. Which is why you and I as taxpayers are so often on the hook for the costs.
Heck, here in the Phoenix area, we are hundreds of millions of dollars in the tank for a for-god-sakes hockey team, and about to spend hundreds of millions of more to support it.
Update: This reminds me of my Forbes article on triumphalism and large building projects
Mark Thornton of the Mises Institute wrote a few years ago about the “skyscraper index,” a correlation first studied by economist Andrew Lawrence, which purports to connect downturns in the business cycle with the construction of the world’s largest skyscraper. Thornton did not suggest the “skyscraper index” was an infallible predictor of economic downturns, but there was ample empirical evidence to suggest “the cause of skyscrapers reaching new heights and severe business cycles are related to instability in debt financing and that the institutions that regulate debt financing should be reevaluated, if not replaced with more efficient and stabilizing institutions.”
Cowboys Stadium may prove to be the NFL’s version of the Chrysler Building, where the groundbreaking occurred a month before the stock market crash of 1929. By most accounts “Jerry World” is the most opulent, luxurious stadium ever built for an NFL team. Not surprisingly, it is also a debt-ridden project that exists only because Jerry Jones had easy access to a government-backed credit card.