Senators Introduce Bill to Stop Taxpayer Funding of Professional Sports Stadiums, but It Should Include College Sports Too

Ths is the front of U.S. Bank Stadium, as seen in late June 2016, which is home to Minnesota Vikings games and other events, large and small. (Minnesota Vikings photo)

A bipartisan group of Senators are backing legislation to prohibit the use of public bonds to finance professional sports stadiums.

“Professional sports teams generate billions of dollars in revenue,” Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) said in a statement. “There’s no reason why we should give these multimillion-dollar businesses a federal tax break to build new stadiums. It’s not fair to finance these expensive projects on the backs of taxpayers, especially when wealthy teams end up reaping most of the benefits.”

“Everyone likes free federal money to build their expensive stadiums, but with $20 trillion in federal debt, this is waste that needs to be eliminated,” Senator Jim Lankford (R-Oklahoma) added.

I like the impulse. I’m not sure about the means. This feels a bit like federal meddling in local affairs, but it would be nice if we could get billionaire sports team owners who employ millionaire athletes to play on their teams in hugely profitable sports leagues to get off the public dole.

According to USA Today’s database for college programs at the 231 Division I schools where the data was available publicly, in the 2014-2015 school year students and taxpayers shelled out over $2.6 billion in subsidies.

If we’re worried about taxpayers subsidizing professional sports, though, what about collegiate athletics?

“A report in September by the Brookings Institution revealed that $3.2 billion in federal taxpayer money, through municipal bonds, has been used to fund 36 newly built or renovated sports stadiums since 2000,” ESPN reports.

That’s a lot of money, even spread out over 17 years. But if you think professional sports teams are sticking their hands too deeply into the public’s piggy bank, they’re pikers compared to collegiate sports.

According to USA Today’s database for college programs at the 231 Division I schools where the data was available publicly, in the 2014-2015 school year students and taxpayers shelled out over $2.6 billion in subsidies in the form of student fees and taxpayer dollars, etc., etc.

That’s just one year, and the problem is getting worse.

“It’s a huge problem in higher education,” said David Catt, the former Kansas golfer, told the Washington Post last year. “You think you’re paying for a degree and you wind up as a piggy bank for a semi-professional sports team.”

That’s exactly the problem. At most universities across the nation sports programs drive up costs for students. Higher education costs taxpayers and students more because of sports.

A lot more. Literally billions, and that’s just the schools we have public data for.

That’s a wrong much larger in scope than subsidies for professional sports stadiums.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from 1-2pm weekdays.

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