NFL Star Calls for End of Stadium Subsidies

Published August 1, 2016

During an interview with a sports-talk radio host in Seattle, Washington, a prominent National Football League star player called on lawmakers to stop using taxpayer money to subsidize stadiums for privately owned sports teams.

In June, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman was interviewed by ESPN sportswriter and talk-show host John Clayton about what Sherman would do if he ever ran for political office.

During the live interview, Sherman expressed opposition to sports stadium subsidies, saying he’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.”

Broken Economic Promises

J.C. Bradbury, an economist and professor of sports management at Kennesaw State University, says sports stadium subsidies don’t just fail to provide economic benefits to communities, they often damage cities’ economic health.

“Economists have conducted many studies of the economic impact of stadiums, and the clear consensus is that they don’t just not meet the promises of big returns, but the returns are normally negative,” Bradbury said. “It is a classic case of redirection, transferring wealth from one part of the community to another. What people miss is that people spending money at the game aren’t spending it at restaurants, movies, et cetera in the same community, offsetting the spending at the stadium.”

Win for Team Owners

Bradbury says subsidizing professional sports stadiums benefits team owners at the expense of almost everyone else.

“The benefits largely accrue to team owners, who get a heavily subsidized or free storefront to sell their product,” Bradbury said. “Sports fans in the town benefit, but they also pay for it through taxes. Taxpayers who don’t care about the team or may actively dislike the team end up the worst off, subsidizing a product they wouldn’t otherwise be willing to pay for.”

‘Not a Public Service’

Paul Guppy, vice president for research at the Washington Policy Center, said funding sports stadium construction is not a proper activity of government.

“Professional sports is not a public service,” Guppy said. “It’s pretty clear that pro sports would be just fine if they received no tax subsidy at all. All they’re doing is subsidizing a multibillion-dollar industry, and I don’t think that serves the public interest.”

Ben Johnson ([email protected]) writes from Stockport, Ohio.