US lawmakers seek to end subsidies for stadium construction

The US Congress has seen the introduction of a bill which aims to eliminate subsidies for professional sports stadia.

The bill was put forward yesterday (Tuesday) by Congresswoman Jackie Speier, along with Congressmen Earl Blumenauer and Don Beyer. Entitled the ‘No Tax Subsidies for Stadiums Act of 2022’, the bill is designed to end the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds that are used to finance pro sports stadiums.

Since 2000, it is claimed that subsidies for financing professional sports stadiums have cost taxpayers $4.3bn (£3.17bn/€3.79bn) despite the billions of dollars in profits that NFL clubs and other professional sports team owners gain each year.

The three politicians have cited the current situation surrounding NFL franchise the Washington Commanders as one of the reasons behind the introduction of the bill. The Commanders are currently in the midst of a probe into allegations of workplace impropriety lodged against the regime led by owner Daniel Snyder.

Speier said: “The NFL has proven once again that it can’t play by the rules. As such, taxpayers-subsidised municipal bonds should no longer be a reward for the Washington Commanders and other teams that continue to operate workplaces that are dens of sexual harassment and sexual abuse.

“There is no reason why these teams – the average of which went up in value to $3.48bn in 2021, according to Forbes – should have American taxpayers footing any of their bills. It doesn’t make economic sense, and it’s particularly galling given the league’s longstanding failure to address issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault as well as on-going racial and gender discrimination and domestic violence.”

The NFL in July fined Washington $10m for its workplace culture following a nearly year-long investigation. However, further allegations have emerged leading to the League on Friday telling the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that Mary Jo White, a former chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, will lead a probe into the new allegations surrounding Snyder.

The NFL has said it will release a written report publicly, something that was not done after the initial investigation. These investigations, and the news of the new bill, come with the Commanders at the centre of talk concerning its stadium situation.

The State of Virginia last week pressed forward with efforts to attract the Commanders to a proposed stadium complex valued at around $3bn. Washington currently plays at FedExField in Prince George’s County, Maryland but the team’s training base and headquarters are in Ashburn, Virginia.

The Commanders have a contract to play at FedExField (pictured) until September 2027 and the team has been exploring options for a new home, with Virginia and Washington having been linked as potential locations.

Commenting on the new bill, Blumenauer said: “This issue comes down to communities being held hostage. The NFL and these other sports leagues are a money-making machine that are rich enough to build their own facilities, and we don’t need to divert much-needed public funding to these projects. Let’s instead focus on spending our tax dollars on creating communities where all of our families can thrive.”

Beyer added: “Super-rich sports team owners like Dan Snyder do not need federal support to build their stadiums, and taxpayers should not be forced to fund them. Billionaire owners who need cash can borrow from the market like any other business.

“Arguments that stadiums boost job creation have been repeatedly discredited. In a time when there is a debate over whether the country can ‘afford’ investments in health care, child care, education, or fighting climate change, it is ridiculous to even contemplate such a radical misuse of publicly subsidised bonds.”

Image: Anders Krøgh Jørgensen on Unsplash