John Oliver slammed tax dollar-funded stadiums on Last Week Tonight. “Sports teams are successful businesses with wealthy owners, and yet they still get our help,” he said on Sunday.
Somehow owners of sports franchises are allowed to bully city and state governments into buying them brand new state-of-the-art stadiums. The owners browbeat governments with the threat that they will leave and relocate in another city. It’s much like when a spoiled brat threatens to love one divorced parent over the other unless they buy the little shit the new toy they want.
He cites the “Make-A-Threat” tactics of the Minnesota Twins that tried to get a new stadium by exploiting children who had cancer.
Oliver pointed out that the Detroit Red Wings were approved for $280 million in taxpayer money for a new arena six days after the city filed for bankruptcy. The team’s owner is Little Caesars founder Mike Ilitch, who has an estimated net worth of an astounding $5.1 billion.
“That’s a little hard to swallow,” Oliver said. “Sure, not as hard to swallow as a Little Caesar’s crazy bread with an assortment of Caesar Dips — but still pretty hard.”
He brought up a current day hostage situation where the Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers are all threatening to move to Los Angeles. Then referenced the “owner” mode of the Madden NFL 15 video game, “Such a cliche that in the current Madden video game, if you want a new stadium, a good way to do that is to relocate a team, and the game even tells you the easiest choice financially is — guess where — Los Angeles.”
Oliver delved into the wasteful and extravagant amenities in these “sports theme parks” that your hard-earned tax dollars help pay for. “Most new stadiums nowadays look like they were designed by a coked-up Willy Wonka,” the talk show host joked. From snakeskin seats to swimming pools that overlook the playing field to aquariums behind home plate. “Those luxury features cost a lot of money, and cities have been paying much of it, coughing up $12 billion for 51 new facilities built between 2000 and 2010,” Oliver said.
Oliver exposed the sham of how sports teams get to keep all the revenue from the naming rights of the stadium that the city or state paid for. The Miami Marlins were given $500 million in public money toward their new stadium in 2008 after claiming that they couldn’t afford to build a facility themselves. However the franchise refused to open their books when questioned by city officials. Leaked documents later revealed that the team had generated $50 million in profits over the previous two years.
“Pretending you’re poor is wrong. It wasn’t OK when Mary-Kate Olsen went through her hobo phase, and it’s not OK now!” Oliver screamed.
The late night host revealed that public funds to build massive new stadiums actually bring their host cities little to nothing in return. One economist said that a sports stadium does so little for the local economy that the government would spark more economic growth by flying an airplane over the city and just dumping $1 billion.
“We have to come to our sense and stop signing these deals,” Oliver demanded.
Oliver ended his damning diatribe by giving a Hollywood-like inspirational halftime speech (15:39 mark). “So when a billionaire asks you to buy him a hologram machine that doesn’t exist yet, what are you going to say?” “NO!”