Saturday, January 30, 2016

Professor Says Green Bay Team is Socialist

In an op-ed of 29 January in the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, retired Berea College professor Michael Rivage-Suel attempted to advance the presidential candidacy of socialist [democrat] Bernie Sanders by using as his example the NFL Green Bay Packers, i.e., capitalism defeated by socialism as the best societal construct. He lays the groundwork using the departure from St. Louis of the NFL Rams to Los Angeles, thus depriving the St. Louis fans (not even having a vote) of “their” team, though it is owned by Stan Kroenke, whose evil intent is to make money.

Rivage-Suel said this was an obvious injustice apparently based on the fact that the fans had been supportive, presumably by attending games. Sports franchises are routinely transferred, just like McDonald's, so this is nothing new. When I was young, the MLB Giants and Dodgers were in New York but have for decades been in Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. Rivage-Suel believes, despite the bottom line (profitability), that a referendum of citizens, who own no financial interest, should decide the issue.

Rivage-Suel said this: “They [owners] leave without reimbursing the community for roads built to service their facilities ...” and mentions community subsidies such as for construction. In other words, the owners have paid no taxes and provided no employment opportunities. This is absurd, made more so by the fact that governing bodies elected by “fans” have made the decisions.

Rivage-Suel rightly affirmed that changes are made in order to make more money, the “logic of capitalism.” This is why the Herald-Leader constantly makes changes in the interest of the bottom line but without taking a vote of the readers, who have no stake in its survival or profitability (or lack thereof). According to Rivage-Suel, the H-L could not leave Lexington for Los Angeles unless its readers agreed.

By picking the Packers, Rivage-Suel defeated his entire argument since the shareholder model is that of Wall Street, where capitalism reigns. Green Bay citizens invest in the team, which is profitable, to share in the proceeds, not to determine its location. If any bloc of shareholders should become large enough to change anything, it could, including location. Rivage-Suel said this is an example of democracy, but democracy is not the issue. Profitability is.

Example: In 2013, according to ESPN, the Packers received $187.7 million from the NFL (mostly TV-generated) but only $136.3 million in local revenue (tickets, concessions, etc.). Expenses amounted to $298.5 million, leaving a profit of $25.5 million for the shareholders, an example of capitalism at its best. The profit would have been about 50% larger but for some outrageously costly contracts to four players.

Without the NFL input, the team would have gone belly-up and the shareholders would have made decisions on the basis of finances, not location. It was a matter of bankruptcy or relocation. The city-population of 104,000 (a third that of Lexington) could not support the team any more than Lexington could.

Strangely, Rivage-Suel said socialism is proved successful because the Packers have won more championships than capitalist competitors, presumably all other NFL teams. All NFL teams are governed by unforgiving capitalist methodology – the bottom line. Subtract the NFL largesse from Green Bay and there would be no Packers there. Perhaps they might make it in St. Louis, population 2.8 million (greater St. Louis area), though Kroenke didn't think so.

If the NFL teams were governed by socialism every player would earn the same, every owner the same and every management the same regardless of business acumen resulting in success or failure. There would be no incentive anywhere to excel, just to survive. Winning would amount to the same as losing. More to the point, instead of the 12 NFL teams in 1959 (Packers included), there are now 32 (partly the result of combining NFL with old AFL), with TV, a very capitalist enterprise, the main reason for their existence.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

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