On February 2nd, the NFL’s Washington Football Team announced that it would be renamed the “Commanders.” The Center for Economic Accountability took the opportunity to release a statement reminding Washington, DC-area sports fans and taxpayers of the team’s terrible track record — and likely future — with its publicly financed stadiums.
When it Comes to Stadium Subsidies, Washington’s NFL Team Should Be Named the “Demanders”
Stadium subsidy critic John Mozena, the president of the Center for Economic Accountability, says the former Washington Football Team’s new name is a missed opportunity for some truth in advertising:
“Instead of the ‘Commanders,’ Washington’s NFL team should have been named the ‘Demanders’ for the way they’re constantly pestering taxpayers and politicians in the D.C. area for new stadium subsidies.”
“Even with five years left on their lease at FedEx Field – and with RFK Stadium still standing — the team’s already lobbying legislators in Virginia for a new publicly financed stadium there. It might have been three decades since the team’s won a playoff game, and they’ve had just six winning seasons since their 1992 Super Bowl, but that’s not stopping them from being strong competitors for the hotly contested NFL stadium subsidy championship.”
“It’s not that NFL teams need taxpayers to pay for their stadiums, it’s that they want them to. It’s great for the profit margin, which makes sense; any company would be more profitable if someone else paid for the place where it does business. But there’s no good economic reason for state or local governments to be picking up that cost. NFL teams only have a few home games each season, and when you spread their attendance out over an entire year rather than nine or ten gamedays it turns out that they only attract as many customers in a year as a single grocery store does. That’s not enough ‘economic impact’ to justify massive subsidies from state and local governments.”
“Teams often claim that they need taxpayer-funded stadiums to stay competitive. Well, the Commanders by any name haven’t been consistently competitive on the field for 30 years, despite their taxpayer-funded stadiums. Meanwhile, this year’s Super Bowl is going to be a home game for one of the few NFL teams to play in a stadium they basically paid for themselves.”
While teams and their hired consultants make huge claims about the economic impact of new stadiums, it’s hard to find any independent experts who agree. In fact, in a 2017 University of Chicago survey of some of the nation’s most high-profile economists – including seven Nobel Prize winners in economics – fully 83 percent agreed that stadium subsidies don’t pay back their return on investment. Eleven percent weren’t sure, and only four percent supported the idea of stadium subsidies.
About the Center for Economic Accountability
The Center for Economic Accountability is an independent nonprofit organization that works to bring transparency, accountability and market-based reforms to state and local economic development programs across America. It runs the “Pay for Your Own Damn Stadium” campaign (www.PFYODS.org) to educate sports fans and taxpayers on the bad math and broken promises of sports stadium subsidies. Learn more about the CEA at EconomicAccountability.org or follow it on Twitter at @AccountableEcon.