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Time to eliminate subsidies for pro sports teams

By Scott Tibbs, October 21, 2011

Bob Zaltsberg actually raises a good point about whether "Occupy Wall Street" should "occupy Madison Square Garden" where the New York Knicks play.

I said back in July that I have little sympathy for NBA owners in the labor dispute: These teams sign bad contracts and then complain that they cannot be profitable because of the heavy load of those contracts. One of those players is Eddy Curry, who has shown that he simply does not care about earning his pay. But even in 2005, the New York Knicks should have known he was overrated (as many fans and his former team did) and that it was foolish to sign him to a huge deal. They signed him to a stupid contract and suffered the consequences.

The NBA should think seriously about the anger at Wall Street, especially given the TARP bailouts that have greatly irritated both the Occupy Wall Street activists on the left and Tea Party activists on the right. This is because the NBA is in a similar situation. (The same could be said of the NFL and Major League Baseball.)

For decades, local and sometimes even state governments have spent millions of dollars confiscated by force from taxpayers to provide arenas for billionaire owners. If we don't get what we want, the owners say, we will take our ball and go to another city that is willing to put us on the dole. Pro sports owners are some of the most extravagant welfare queens around, even including the hated banks.

Government, fearful of losing the economic activity stimulated by the pro sports teams, shell out truckloads of cash to give the billionaires what they want. (Never mind that the economic impact of pro sports is overblown.)

But in an economy that has been unable to break out of the deep recession (can we call it a depression now?) that started with the crash of the financial sector three years ago, should we really be spending so much taxpayer money to subsidize billionaire owners and millionaire players - especially when local sports bars, restaurants and others that rely on the economic activity stimulated by the Indiana Pacers will now go without the money that would be generated in the first two weeks of the NBA season?

It is understandable that people would be frustrated that, after all the taxpayers have poured into professional sports over the decades, local businesses that rely on those teams to stimulate business will now go without as players and owners squabble over how to split billions of dollars in revenue - especially when much of the economic difficulties that NBA teams are facing is a direct result of stupid deals signed by owners that even casual fans know are foolish.

The answer is to let the pro sports teams - in the NBA, NFL and MLB - take care of themselves. Don't put a gun in the face of the taxpayers and force us to subsidize these spoiled brats.