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Jewish World Review Jan. 4, 1999/15 Teves, 5759

Larry Elder

Larry Elder

The NBA slam-dunks taxpayers

(JWR) --- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com) DROP-DEAD DAY: Jan. 7, 1999.

The never-begun National Basketball Association season goes lights out on that date, if owners and players fail to reach a deal. This outrages hard-core fans -- but for the wrong reasons. New Jersey Nets guard Sam Cassell said, "I think the owners look at us as black, ghetto guys with tons of money that we don't deserve." And Jayson Williams, also of the Nets, said, "For some guys, it's hard not to think about race."

The race card?

Not that it matters, but The New York Times notes that the players "admit that they cannot point to a single, overtly racist comment or tactic on the part of the owners or the league."

Eighty-five percent black, the NBA has been dominated by black players for nearly 30 years. Average salary? Approximately $1.4 million. For that, you may blame/thank free agency, where a player, after a few years, can sell his wares to any of the competing owners. Try asking brilliant old schoolers like the Los Angeles Lakers Jerry West and Elgin Baylor how much jack they could have banked under today's free agency and revenue-sharing arrangement with the "racist" NBA (an option not available to the professional football players).

Major league baseball also shut down play after failing to come to terms with the players. So did the NFL. And, in 1992, the melanin-challenged National Hockey League's players struck. Did anyone cry "Canadianism"? Certainly, sports fans see red when, in their opinion, "spoiled" athletes demand more, even though they play a game that many others would gladly play for a lot less.

And the players have a point when they say, "Look, this isn't about being grateful. It's about getting fair market value for one's skilled labor. Same as you'd expect."

But white players hear it from the fans, too. When pitcher Kevin Brown signed with the Dodgers for $105 million, one disgusted customer said of Brown's contract terms, "It wasn't listed, so I guess Brown turned down the kitchen sink."

Pricey Whitney Houston tickets don't seem to annoy. Nor do multimillion salaries for actors Denzel Washington and Will Smith seem to tick anybody off. So, guys, the race card? Please leave home without it.

But fans ought to be angry. Not at the players or the owners. No, please direct the wrath toward the real villains -- the politicians. For the real insult remains tax subsidies and other public concessions showered on multibillionaire owners who pay multimillionaire players, all of which the decidedly non-wealthy fans end up supporting. Nearly every stadium -- via taxpayer money -- gives owners grants, tax forgiveness, tax abatements, parking and refreshment concessions, sweetheart deals, free or below-market rent, or some concoction of all of the above.

Later, when owners demand that taxpayers pony up a spiffy new $300 million stadium with a retractable sunroof and luxury boxes, they truck down to City Council and say, "Ante up, or I call the movers!" There's always another Suckersville, with an ego-driven but economically illiterate mayor willing to open the vault and yell, "Come on down!"

But don't the pols tell us that taxpayer-financed stadiums and arenas generate jobs and attract revenue? Bull. Indiana University's Mark Rosentraub told The Wall Street Journal, "The basic rule you always start with is that building a stadium for economic development makes no sense at all."

And Holy Cross' Charles C. Euchner, author of "Playing the Field," a book about cities' bidding wars for sports teams, said, "Money spent on stadiums is money not available for other infrastructure projects, and most U.S. cities are in a state of crisis regarding the condition of roads, water and sewer mains, bridges and tunnels and subways."

The Los Angeles Times reports that, since 1990, over $12 billion has been spent in stadium and arena construction, noting that "of 59 individual projects across the United States, all but five are wholly or partially financed by taxpayers." Meanwhile, the price for a family of four to attend an NBA game averages $214.28.

So, players, don't insult our intelligence by calling the owners racist, when they dole out nearly a million-and-a-half dollars in average salaries in a league praised for the number of blacks in management.

And, owners, don't insult our intelligence by pleading poverty. Tax subsidies and tax breaks virtually guarantee profits. And if, despite this generous cushion, you go bust (or say you do), cities line up to enrich you at taxpayer expense, only to get jilted when another town blows you kisses. So, if anybody has a right to scream foul, it's the loyal, luckless fan.

Welcome to today's professional sports. To the owners, it's a business. To the athletes, it's a job. To the fans, it's a sport. But to the taxpayers, it's a rip-off.


12/28/98: "Evil" Republicans impeach Clinton
12/21/98: On to the Senate!
12/10/98: Will the real America stand up?
11/30/98: Save the children:tax the poor
11/30/98:Ken Starr and the vast left-wing conspiracy
11/19/98: Will the real hypocrite stand up!?
11/13/98: The Clinton 400
10/23/98: My evening with Chris Rock
10/15/98: Slavery is not funny
10/02/98: Clinton --- friend of the working woman
9/28/98: George Washington vs. the Grand Jury
9/18/98: It's the perjury, stupid
9/14/98: The "Larry List" of the most fascinating women in politics
9/07/98: Why blacks shouldn't support Clinton
8/27/98:The Brown bomber strikes Justice Thomas
8/21/98:So very clintonesque
8/17/98: Gary Coleman, hate criminal?
8/07/98: How much mea culpa?
7/24/98: ATM Al?
7/24/98: Advising the advisors
7/17/98: Camille Cosby's carelessness
7/9/98: Moses mugged
7/2/98: Al Campanis -- forever a racist?
6/25/98: And you thought "coke" was worse than smokes
6/19/98: Is Jasper ‘America'?
6/12/98: Guess who's not coming to dinner
6/5/98: What now, NOW?
5/29/98:What's next, ‘burger busters'?
5/21/98: 'Stuff' happens
5/18/98: This just in
5/11/98: Stepping up
4/30/98: Who's faking whom?
4/16/98:To spank or not to spank

©1998, Laurence A. Elder