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“A Derogatory History”: Economics May Finally Change The Terrible Name Of Washington’s Football Franchise

A group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, as U.S. News’ Lauren Fox reports, is calling on Washington, D.C.’s National Football League franchise – unfortunately called the Redskins – to finally change its name. In a letter to owner Dan Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the 10 lawmakers, including the co-chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus, write, “Native Americans throughout the country consider the term ‘redskin’ a racial, derogatory slur akin to the ‘N-word’ among African-Americans or the ‘W-word’ among Latinos … Washington’s NFL football team profits from a term that is equally disparaging to Native Americans.”

Snyder has come under increased pressure to change the derogatory name of his franchise, including from the D.C. city leadership and Washington’s (nonvoting) member of the House of Representatives (who cosigned the letter). But, so far, he seems immune to such pressure.

So it was a point the 10 lawmakers made later in their letter that likely highlights the way towards enticing a recalcitrant and belligerent Snyder to come around. And it doesn’t have to do with anyone’s feelings; it has to do with economics.

As Fox notes, “Lawmakers have alerted the NFL that Congress introduced legislation that would amend the 1946 Trademark Act and cancel any trademark that used the term ‘redskin.'” That bill, H.R. 1278, would eliminate one of Snyder’s money-making avenues, removing the trademark protection that prevents other organizations from marketing Redskins gear.

As ThinkProgress’ Travis Waldron explains, “Losing the trademark wouldn’t force the Redskins to change the name. What it would do, however, is make it impossible to stop other people from using it.” The Redskins are the fifth most valuable sports franchise in the world, so cutting off the trademark spigot would likely be more effective, sadly, than the string of Native American leaders who have come forward to explain the derogatory history of the term with which Washington endows its team.

Pro sports (as I’ve noted here before) is a big business and there are myriad ways in which the government is implicitly or explicitly backing the profits of franchises and their owners. And teams, as every fight over public subsidies for a new stadium shows, will go to great lengths to protect that backing. Washington’s team is already facing one lawsuit looking to strip away the trademark; an affirmative act of Congress to finish the trademark off would leave Snyder with quite the conundrum.

For precedent, it’s worth revisiting what led Washington’s football franchise to integrate. Then-owner George Preston Marshall was perfectly content to play up the team’s racist history, leaving it the last segregated squad in the league. He finally relented in 1962, not because of any change of heart, but after the John F. Kennedy administration threatened to refuse the team access to what is now called RFK Stadium, which was on federal land, unless it integrated. (Thomas G. Smith’s “Showdown: JFK and the Integration of the Washington Redskins” is a good primer on the tale.)

So these 10 members of Congress hit on perhaps the best approach for getting Snyder to change his mind: not going after his sense of decency, but his bottom line.

 

By: Pat Garofalo, U. S. News and World Report, May 29, 2013

May 30, 2013 Posted by | Sports | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Your Money At Work”: Taxpayers Are Footing The Bill For The Site Of This Year’s Super Bowl

The tenth Super Bowl played in New Orleans, and the first since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005, will kickoff in a stadium that has received more than $470 million in public support since the storm, as taxpayers have footed the bill for renovations and upgrades in the face of threats from ownership and the National Football League to move the team to another city.

In the aftermath of Katrina, New Orleans was desperate to keep the Saints from skipping town. The NFL and Saints owner Tom Benson seem to have taken advantage of that desperation, leveraging it into hundreds of millions of dollars in public support — from the city, state, and federal governments — for renovations to the decimated Superdome, which housed Katrina refugees during and after the storm. In 2009, the state committed $85 million more to keep the Saints in town and attempt to woo another Super Bowl, all while signing a lease worth $153 million in a nearby building owned by Benson.

While investors and Benson have profited from the deals, taxpayers haven’t been as lucky, Bloomberg reports:

Talks headed by then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue led to a plan to fix and renovate the Superdome with $121 million from the state, $44 million from the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, which oversees the facility, $156 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $15 million from the league. Blanco said a rushed bond deal followed.

Ultimately, the financing cost the district more than three times its $44 million commitment, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from state documents and interviews. […]

In April 2009, Louisiana negotiated a new lease to secure Benson’s promise to keep the team in New Orleans through 2025. The state made $85 million in fresh Superdome improvements, adding luxury seating and moving the press box. A company owned by Benson, Zelia LLC, bought the 26-story tower next to the stadium that had stood mostly vacant since Katrina and renovated it. At the time, Benson put the total cost at about $85 million. The state then signed a $153 million, 20-year lease for office space in the building, which now houses 51 state agencies, according to the Louisiana Administration Division. […]

“A lot of folks in New York made a ton of money,” [former state Treasurer John] Kennedy said. “Louisiana taxpayers didn’t do so well.”

The Superdome certainly needed renovations following Katrina. But its original construction was financed solely by taxpayers, and Benson, who is worth roughly $1.6 billion, didn’t contribute and repeatedly hinted that the Saints would move to San Antonio, Los Angeles, or another city unless taxpayers ponied up. Kennedy, the state treasurer, told Bloomberg he went into negotiations with the NFL and Benson “with a gun against my head.”

Benson isn’t alone. Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wylf used the threat of relocation to help secure public funding for a new stadium, and owners across the NFL are doing the same. Owners of the Miami Dolphins are using the promise of future Super Bowls (even though the event rarely provides the promised economic boost) to lure more money from taxpayers who are already on the hook for the city’s new baseball stadium.

The NFL’s program that provides loans to teams for new facilities is contingent on taxpayer support for at least part of the cost, and only one current NFL facility was built without some sort of public funding.

 

By: Travis Waldron, Think Progress, February 1, 2013

February 3, 2013 Posted by | Sports, Taxpayers | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Slow Death March”: The NFL And The Republican Party Are Sinking

Did you know in medical circles there’s talk the NFL will only last another 15 years or so?

The medical evidence linking professional football’s furious, jarring hits to the head and brain injury is that strong and overwhelming. Later in life, it all catches up to a guy, who succumbs to being a shell of himself. For wives, it’s incredibly painful to witness their strong and mighty men become lost and weak, day by day, weeks giving way to months and years, relentlessly. Like a slow death march.

The NFL is so rich and powerful it’s hard to imagine that happening, isn’t it? With all the stadiums they made cities build for them, their dominance over network television schedules, their carefully cultivated rivalries, their gleaming Super Bowl half-time shows, their spiffy uniforms and grumpy coaches—how do we go on without all that? The NFL has so much control over American lives, aspirations, and social mixing that it is practically a shadow government.

The NFL has faced litigation over brain injuries and is bracing for many more lawsuits as its first generation of former players reach old age.

But some say a tipping point will emerge, a consensus that an entire swath of football players—past and present—will almost certainly deal with brain damage. And all the NFL’s lavish compensations will not be enough lucre to prod players to keep playing the game as it is now played: brutally. The whole sport is a gaming of war, after all. Organized violence is what we collectively come to see.

These experts think the NFL will be suddenly forced to switch to a game like soccer. I’d love to see that, but I can’t fathom the NFL buckling to sweet reason so soon. Football is so much part of the Americana male archetype. Soccer is so lightweight, literally.

Well, guess what. Political observers are saying the same thing about the walking-wounded Republican Party. They say the game it’s playing is moribund. The party Lincoln joined when it was young is foundering, according to the Washington pundits, not all of them Democratic observers. The 2012 election showed that the party has white men squarely on its side, but the electorate is not all white men anymore.

Meanwhile, the party lost the Latino vote, the black vote, and of course, the women’s vote after its visceral attack on reproductive rights. Who did they think would vote for their ticket other than well-off white men? The quintessentially privileged candidate, Mitt Romney, could not connect across class and lines of life experience. And he really was the best the party had. Think of how Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum—anyone else in the primary—would have been an international disgrace. They need new fresh faces.

The Republicans seem to be at a loss for new ideas as well. Cutting Medicare is as popular as a skunk about a garden party. They should have more garden parties and fewer skunks—do I need to name them? They are all there on camera every day, looking dour and angry that the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans are going to see their Bush-era tax cuts expire. Too bad!

The NFL and the GOP: what a plight. I feel so sorry for them. But let’s say it clear here. They deserve to have their game and party sink into the mud if they can’t freshen up.

By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, December 4, 2012

December 5, 2012 Posted by | Politics, Sports | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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