On Tuesday, Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post asked a mind-blowingly excellent but unfortunately rhetorical question:
“What right do owners have to padlock stadiums that taxpayers helped pay for?” asked Jenkins.
She’s got one hell of a point.
This is how blindly loyal (some would use harsher terms) the majority of professional football fans are: most of them have spent their hard-earned money, not only on tickets and merchandise, but also on behemoth stadiums built far before they were necessary. And yet they’re going to sit back and let billionaires use them as pawns in their quest for a better deal. And when it’s all done and football returns, they’ll be in their seats, $10 beers in hand.
Taxpayers continue to fund the lion’s share of pro sports stadiums in the United States, and until that changes, the owners who reap all the benefits shouldn’t have the right to lock the doors.
This is why citizens and the public officials who represent them have to be involved in this fight.
The NFL is made up of 31 separate private enterprises, and a single public one. But since public money is constantly being used to fund the bread and butter of pro football, the fans should have a say. Ultimately, they’re the ones paying the players’ salaries. Without its massive amount of fans, the NFL would be nothing more than an amateur operation.
I’m not attempting to go the bleeding heart route here. Saying “it’s about the fans” is like saying “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” It rings hollow for those who are familiar with cliché. No, the onus is on us as fans to make our voices heard. In a dog-eat-dog culture, you can’t count on anyone but yourself to look out for your interests.
Taxpayers in the city of Arlington recently spent hundreds of millions of dollars to help Jerry Jones build the new Cowboys Stadium. Where’s mayor Robert Cluck? Why isn’t he stepping up and applying pressure on the owners and the players to get something done? Why aren’t fans calling and e-mailing their local representatives and asking them to relay their collective two cents in this battle?
I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to tell me that politicians have better things to do than to get involved in sports issues. That’s crap. Politicians are responsible for representing the interests of their constituents. In NFL cities across the country, people want football — and by an extension that only some of them may have properly comprehended at this stage, they want to see their tax money going to good use.
And for all of those fans who have already put up money to cover season tickets and/or personal seat licenses, how, apart from bitching to local politicians, can you get involved in this fight? Jenkins suggests following the players’ route and taking these grievances to court: “If the fans don’t get a fair return on the public funds and favor lavished on owners, here’s what they should do: sue,” wrote Jenkins. “That’s right. Attorneys general in every state that houses an NFL team should draw up suits to force the league to play, or repay what they owe us.”
So as a fan, you have options. Sitting on your ass and complaining about the rich battling the rich over who gets to become richer is fruitless and counterproductive.