Major-league monopoly

Jeff vonKaenel

I love sports. I love playing sports, I love watching sports, and I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about sports. At the final reckoning, I expect to tell St. Peter I was concerned about world peace and climate change, but he will probably point out that, based on my time sheet, I spent more time worrying about the Cleveland Indians and the Sacramento Kings.

Pleading guilty, I will ask for reduced time in purgatory, because I have already spent so much time in sports purgatory with my losing teams, the Indians and the Kings. Neither has won a championship in my lifetime.

While I love the teams and the players, it is painfully clear that the billionaire owners and millionaire players do not love me or their fans. In fact, they hold us in contempt.

With such a crying need for schools, homeless shelters, libraries and bridges, how can they demand tax subsidies for their stadiums? They can because the sports leagues have been given special federal anti-trust exemptions, which allow them to form a sports monopoly. Since there are more cities than teams, the league can play one city off against another, as we see with the Seattle and Sacramento battle. The winners are the National Basketball Association owners. The losers are the taxpayers and the fans, who have to provide higher subsidies and pay higher ticket prices if they want to keep or gain a team.

The NBA’s annual revenue is $4.3 billion. On the average, this equals $143 million per year per team. With such a large revenue stream, the NBA and other major-league sports teams should be able to build and pay for their own arenas and stadiums. Somehow, nearly all private-sector businesses pay for their own offices and factory buildings.

Some will argue that sports teams cannot afford to pay for their own arenas. It’s true that some sports teams are losing money, but look at how much they pay their players. Players’ salaries are absurd. Believe me, the NBA does not need to worry about their players being recruited away. Very few businesses have a pressing need to find an extremely tall person who can put a leather ball into a small metal hoop.

It is time we re-examine the major-league sports anti-trust exemption. We could go to a system similar to youth soccer, where teams move up or down in position based on their win-loss record. These anti-trust exemptions for sports teams have enabled the team owners to extort subsidies from cities as the Maloofs are doing now with the competition between Seattle and Sacramento. This is a dysfunctional relationship. It is not healthy to love somebody who holds you in contempt.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.