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Why Your Local Professional Sports Team Owner is By Far the Most Powerful Figure in Your City

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

In the news recently, it feels like there are more and more sports franchises gaining almost complete control over the places that they reside. This is a trend that has been especially apparent throughout time, as the towns and cities they reside in become reliant on sports franchises for the revenue that they bring to the local economy.

However, even more recently, this has led to the power getting to the heads of some of the richest people in the sports industry. There have been rumors that the owners of the Oakland Athletics, who have a notoriously outdated stadium, have been pressing the city of Oakland to build them an environment around their new stadium that would cost them millions. The issue with this is, if Oakland declines, then the Athletics will simply move the same way that the Raiders left town. After this occurs, a bidding war begins and wherever the Athletics can get the most public funding and tax breaks is where they will go.

This can have dramatic effects on local economies that depend on the crowds that the stadiums bring into town. For example, when you bring in a sports franchise and build a stadium, it boosts the local economy by allowing more revenue to come in, and by attracting more businesses to the location. If you bring in a sports stadium, people are going to need to get gas somewhere near it if they were driving far, so it leads to a gas station being built near the stadium. Then this leads to restaurants being built, because they may want to go somewhere to eat before or after the game. It is easy to see how this chain reaction can then lead to a prosperous local economy, and a dramatic downfall once the sports team leaves and the revenue goes with it.

The way that this impacts us today can be exemplified by the spending breakdown of the new stadium being built for the Buffalo Bills. In this situation, the state of New York is contributing around $600 million for the building of this stadium, which has been met with mixed reactions. Mostly because this stadium is not even in Buffalo, and additionally because the money that is being contributed to this stadium is coming from the taxpayers. [1]

This has reflected just how powerful owners have become, not even just in football, but across all sports. Most of you may know about the recent MLB lockout that occurred in the offseason, and if you don’t, a short summary in a sentence or two would be that the owners and players must come to an agreement on specific rules, and this agreement expires after a certain number of years. This offseason, the last agreement expired, and a new one had to be negotiated. When it takes too long to negotiate an agreement, the league enters what is called a lockout. For context, we have not had an MLB lockout since the 1994-1995 season, which just goes to show that it is significant. The major issue that has occurred recently is that the owners were refusing to budge on paying players more, and so they had all the power during the negotiations. This forced players to give up some of their rights in order to make a deal, just showing how powerful owners of sports franchises have become. If they feel that it will be more profitable for them and their franchise, they will not hesitate to force their way out of a city and move elsewhere. This leads to both destroying the local economy they’re leaving and crippling the city they’re entering with the tax breaks they insist on receiving.

All in all, the conclusion that can be drawn from all of this is that owners are getting more powerful, in most cases even more powerful than the local government and economy of the city they are leaving in. The way this may impact you, is that if your local government doesn’t bend to the will of the owner of your local sports team, then you may lose your local sports team for good.

Jon Trusz is a Junior at the University of Connecticut studying Political Science and Communications, and can be reached on LinkedIn under his name, or by email at [email protected].

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