Throughout many cities in America, professional sports teams are receiving a little extra help from taxpayers. A recent estimate from Judith Grant Long, professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University, states that taxpayers have put forth $12 billion dollars to fund fifty-one major sports stadiums from 2001-2010. This is yet another perfect example of taxpayer-backed corporate welfare. Profitable organizations such as NFL franchises that generate billions annually should not receive handouts from hardworking taxpayers, no matter how enticing the sport may be.

Generally professional sports cause a difference of opinion; however 2014 Super Bowl winner Richard Sherman recently said something that all Americans can get behind.

In a recent interview with ESPN, Sherman said:

“I’d get us out of this deficit, I’d stop spending billions of taxpayer dollars on stadiums and probably get us out of debt and maybe make the billionaires who actually benefit from the stadiums pay for them. That kind of seems like a system that would work for me.”

While sports certainly do play an important role in many American’s lives, taxpayers should not be the ones funding stadiums. In a recent article, Brent Gardner, Vice President of Government Affairs at Americans for Prosperity, laid out some of the offenders of taxpayer-backed handouts: 

  • Indianapolis Colts: $619.6 million of taxpayers funds used on Lucas Oil Stadium
  • Seattle Seahawks: $300.3 million used on Sherman’s own stadium, Century Link Field

National Football League stadiums aren’t the only ones receiving millions from government sponsored corporate welfare; Major League Baseball stadiums received $203 million, $127 million for National Hockey League stadiums, and over $102 million for the National Basketball Association stadiums. While many argue that investing in stadiums will help boost local economies, studies state otherwise. In a 1997 book,Sports, Jobs, and Taxes, 17 economists including Andrew Zimbalist and Roger G. Noll, concluded that bringing in professional sports teams do not boost the economy. In a more recent 2007 study from the Journal of Sports Economics, researchers found that subsidizing stadiums do not raise regional income nor do they improve the local economy.

While construction of stadiums may provide short term opportunities such as construction jobs, the long term effect of providing large subsidies to professional sports teams does more harm than good. Some local businesses near the stadium including restaurants and hotels might win from the extra local spending, but taxpayers certainly will lose in the long run if they are expected to fund major sports stadiums.  

It should not be the role of taxpayer’s to provide a pathway for sports teams to build stadiums. Our elected officials should stop playing a game of their own and stop wasting their constituent’s money, or as Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, best states: “It’s better to have the billionaires who own these teams to pay for these themselves.”

Photo Credit: Keith Allison