Oakland, California is in the midst of a crime wave and remains the fifth-most crime ridden city in America. Nevertheless, the city fired one-fourth of its police department — over 200 officers. However, in the latest example of the lunacy of public subsidies for professional football and baseball teams, the city is forking over $17.3 million for the National Football League’s Oakland Raiders and Major League Baseball’s Athletics. These owners are racking in huge profits but Oakland and other cities continue to subsidize the teams despite studies (here and here) showing that these teams do not bring in enough revenue to pay for the huge debt associated with new stadiums. However, the teams grab of millions from an economically crippled city explains why the team is called “the Raiders.”
To make matters even more bizarre, the Raiders are pressuring the city to replace the 46-year-old stadium or possibly lose the Raiders. The team’s owners are looking at nearby Santa Clara. In the meantime, financially strapped Los Angeles has backed a $1.5 billion stadium hoping to lure the NFL to the city. If the Raiders leave Oakland, it will leave the city with about $145 million in debt. It is astonishing that cities continue to yield to this legal form of extortion by NFL owners who use local fans to raid the coffers of cities and states. Of course, that loyalty is entirely one-sided. They make it clear that they will leave cities without hesitation is there is more money elsewhere. Art Modell showed how the bottom-line and not tradition guides owners in his decision to suddenly move the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, Maryland during the 1996 NFL season.
Now politicians are shutting down educational and social welfare programs in order to fork over millions to NFL owners. Oakland even places football above public safety — the ultimate let them eat Football moment.