Enough is enough, sports fans.
It’s been known for decades that Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is a racist jerk. Ditto Daniel Snyder, the owner of that professional football team in our nation’s capital whose current horrific anti-indigenous team name is a global embarrassment.
But these guys are the tip of the iceberg. The real question is: Why are these teams owned by individuals at all? Why do we allow our precious sports clubs to be the playthings of a bunch of wealthy degenerates?
Why aren’t the football, baseball, basketball, hockey and other major sports franchises so many of us so passionately love and support not owned by the communities that give them their life? Why is our nation powerless to remove the racist logo from a public stadium just down the street from the White House and Congress?
There’s a model out there that does work. It’s called the Green Bay Packers (a team of which I’m proud owner of two shares).
There are plenty of flaws in the setup, but when snow covers the field, the community comes out to shovel it off. And though the NFL owners have specifically banned any more teams from being publicly owned, the Packers have done just fine at the highest levels of competition.
It’s time to use the Packer green and gold as a starter model for all franchise ownership.
Some of the millionaires and billionaires who now own these teams are obviously decent, tolerant, open-minded people. Many are more than that—competent, committed, good at their jobs, even genuinely humble and community minded.
But there’s a reason Sterling can be possessed of “a plantation mentality” and get away with it all these years. Likewise the various owners of the football team in Washington.
The real issue is not the quality or lack thereof of the current custodians of the front office. These teams are plantations.
Like so much else under the laws of today’s Gilded Age America, our sports franchises are public assets that we have allowed to be owned by private rich people. That is, to vastly understate the case, wrong, wrong, wrong.
However nice or otherwise they might be, these owners have been gouging out public subsidies for stadiums, tax breaks and too much else over the decades. How else does a franchise like the Clippers leap in value from $12 million when Sterling bought it in 1981 to $575 million today?
It’s time to take these teams back. We are the rightful owners, not the latest random robber baron to want his or her very own courtside seats, where the players, coaches, fans and broadcasters can kiss the owner’s ring. Not the latest temporarily solvent corporation that wants to stick its logo in our faces while talented young men and women play their hearts out.
The Fifth Amendment says the public has the right to take property with “just compensation.” It’s called “eminent domain.” Let’s use it to condemn all these franchises, buy out their “owners” and have the teams run by the cities, counties and/or states in which they reside, and to which they rightfully belong.
Management should be coordinated in partnership with the unions of the players. And the Donald Sterlings and Daniel Snyders will be relegated to the trash heap of our sports history.
It’s the only way. See you in the publicly owned bleachers, cheering on our teams.
Harvey Wasserman roots for the Celtics, Red Sox, Packers and Blue Jackets, but he is part owner only of the Packers and wants that to change.