In the past decade, one of the most successful football franchises has also been one of the most scandalous. The franchise I’m referring to, of course, is the New England Patriots. There is no denying their success under Bill Belichick—winning four super bowls since 2001. However, the Patriots organization has faced harsh criticism in recent years. In 2007 New England was caught illegally videotaping the opposing teams defensive signals which lead to a fine of $250,000 and being stripped of their first-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft. Most recently, the Patriots are being attacked for deflating footballs, which made the balls air pressure less than the NFL regulated amount. Despite these two scandals, New England should be praised as one of the most virtuous franchises in professional sports. Unlike many professional sports teams, the Patriots do not depend on the taxpayer to fund the billion dollar industry they profit from.
Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft did what most owners of professional sports teams are reluctant to do. He arranged 100 percent private funding for the construction and maintenance of Gillette Stadium, where his team plays. Private funding for NFL stadiums is far from the norm. In fact, 20 new NFL stadiums have opened since 1997 with the help of $4.7 billion in taxpayer funds, according to an analysis by the advisory firm Conventions, Sports and Leisure. However, it’s not just the NFL that is guilty of taking taxpayer money to fund their investments.
In the Detroit community, Mike Illitch is admired and well-regarded by most everyone. He is known for being the entrepreneur behind the Little Caesars pizza franchise as well as turning the Red Wings into an NHL powerhouse. Illitch is now being hailed for his plans to revitalize Detroit by building a new arena for the Red Wings to play in. Unlike Kraft, Illitch expects taxpayers to undertake the burden of funding the new arena he is seeking to build and profit from. According to CNN, “Taxpayers will be paying almost two-thirds of the cost of the arena — $283 million — and private developers will cover the rest. Including interest, it’s projected that there will be a total of $444 million in taxpayer funds spent on the project.”
Using taxpayer money to construct new stadiums is justified by rhetoric that it will bring money to the city and boost the local economy. However, the consensus among economists is stadiums bring little economic benefit to the city and are certainly not a wise investment for taxpayers. A study by Dennis Coates, an economics professor at the University of Maryland and Brad Humphreys, an economics professor at West Virginia University concluded, “The evidence suggests that attracting a professional sports franchise to a city and building that franchise a new stadium or arena will have no effect on the growth rate of real per capita income and may reduce the level of real per capita income in that city.”
From domestic violence issues to safety concerns, professional sports are continually criticized. Yet, local and state governments are routinely more than willing to finance stadiums to host professional sports, which owners profit of off, at the expense of taxpayers. So the next time you accuse the Patriots of being a dishonorable franchise for breaking NFL regulations, remember that they are one of few franchises not taking taxpayer money to fund their profitable business.