WATCH: John Oliver Rips Billionaire Sports Owners
One of the longest running and most shameless scams leveled against the public over the past three decades has been the use of city and county dollars to fund the stadiums of for-profit sports teams. While the racket has had its detractors, the use of public funds to make the super-wealthy incrementally more super-wealthy has largely gone unnoticed.
On Sunday night's Episode of Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver set out to put an end to this complacency by laying out a brilliant - and funny - argument for "making owners pay".
"[Municipal bonds] are supposed to be for things like roads, schools... public goods that private industry would not pay for. But increasingly they're misused to fund stadiums that sports teams claim they can't afford themselves." Oliver explained. He would go on to cite the Miami Marlins who insisted to city officials in 2010 they were broke so the city would foot their stadium bill, only to reveal later they had generated over $50 million in operating income the previous two years.
But, as Oliver notes, fan loyalty is a potent political weapon.
"Sports teams are shameless at manipulating fans' emotions", Oliver said, pointing to the case of Glendale, Arizona, whose mayor Jerry Weiers allowed himself to be Tased for charity after daring to suggest the city dump its costly hockey team. Fans are, by definition, fanatical and will do anything to "keep" their team. But, as Oliver suggests in his very own inspiring halftime speech, if we can marshal the courage to say no, to insist owners pay for their own stadiums, we can perhaps maintain something a bit more valuable than our sports franchises - our sense of dignity.
Watch the clip below:
For more, check out the underrated blog Field of Schemes which documents, daily, the way professional sports rip us off and uses local press as PR proxies.