Professional Sports Teams Move - Cities Fight To Keep Them
Professional sports, like most of our popular culture, can be understood only partly by through its exiting plays and tremendous athletes. Baseball and football most of all are not only games anymore but also hardcore businesses. As businesses, sports leagues can be as conniving, deceitful, and manipulative as any other businesses in the world. No matter what the circumstances are, it seems that Politicians are always some how right around the corner from the world of sports. These Politicians look to exploit both the cultural and the economic dimensions of the sports for their own purposes. This is what is known in the sports industry as “playing the field”.
In the last decade, almost all the big cities in the United States, and a few small cities as well, have battled with each other for the right to host big league franchises. Cities spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build new stadiums and offer enticements to private franchise owners. Politicians often push for stadiums and other favors to teams despite not having support from neighborhoods and general opposition across the whole city, especially where these high dollar stadiums would be built.
Some of the most prolific franchises in sports, like the Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Colts of the National Football League, have moved to other cities breaking off their loyalty to the hometown fans. More important than the actual moves are the more frequent threatened moves. When teams “play the field” and explore the option of playing in other cities they are able to lure interested cities into giving them just about any royalty they want. New stadiums are only the beginning. The willingness to threaten departure has secured for teams a variety of land deals, lower taxes, more revenues from parking and concessions, control of stadium operations, guaranteed ticket sales, renovation of stadiums with luxury seating, control over neighborhoods and transportation systems, and that’s only the beginning of the list.
Franchises are able to control their own destinies and have major advantages over city officials. This is what as known in the sports industry as the “uneven playing field”. City officials react to the offensive strategies of team owners, but never can anticipate what the owners are prepared to do. Team owners have complete control over the city officials when it comes to the terms of development in team deals. This type of political confrontations enables teams to control debate, leaving city officials playing defense.
Possibly those who are most effected by the sport’s industry’s willingness to abandon a community are the dedicated fans. When Al Davis moved the Oakland Raiders to Los Angeles, he pulled away from some of sport’s most loyal fans and also hurt his football...