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Could losing copyright protection be the key to ending stadium subsidies?

Minnesota Vikings

Quentin Tarantino is suing Gawker Media because it leaked his script and Northwestern football players are attempting to unionize in yet another attack on the NCAA — two stories that would otherwise be right in my wheelhouse — but, it’s Super Bowl week so I’m pretty sure I’m constitutionally required to write something about football.

Public funding for NFL stadiums has been a hot topic here in Minnesota over the last couple years as the Vikings pushed for a replacement for the Metrodome. Ultimately, an agreement on the new $1 billion stadium was reached with the team and the public splitting the bill 50/50. This tends to be the case all over the country, with the public paying for a large chunk of almost every new stadium (MetLife Stadium, the home of this year’s Super Bowl, is the rare case of a privately-funded new stadium). Some believe that the NFL intentionally doesn’t have a team in Los Angeles because it provides NFL owners with an easy threat when politicians balk at paying for a new stadium with public funds: “Pay up or I’m moving the team to LA.” And because no politician wants to be blamed when a local team moves (just ask those who were in office when the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas), the team usually gets the stadium it wants.

Of course, any profits that the team gets from the new stadium usually go to the team’s owners, which seems to create a situation where really rich people get even richer using everyone else’s money. Throw in the fact that the NFL is considered a non-profit (and gets the tax breaks that come along with that designation) and you can begin to see why some people are starting to cry foul on the whole situation.

Into this problem steps Gregg Easterbrook (brother of my former law school professor and noted jurist, Frank Easterbrook) with an interesting proposal. He argues that “lawmakers — ideally in Congress, to level the national playing field, as it were — should require that television images created in publicly funded sports facilities cannot be privatized.” This would almost certainly find NFL owners sucking it up and paying for their own stadiums rather than giving up the billions and billions of dollars in television revenue that would go away if anyone were allowed to broadcast NFL games. It seems like a pretty good proposal to me.

This post was written by and originally published on the Duets Blog. Follow the Duets Blog on Twitter: @duetsblog.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Bob Quarrels on 01/31/2014 - 01:21 pm.

    There’s an idea

    Perhaps when Senator Klobuchar is done grandstanding about Super Bowl sex trafficking, she could worked on this. Despite long years of handwringing over the Twins and Vikings, nobody seemed to realize it’s an issue that needs a national remedy (such as the one above) and to push for that. If nothing else, games in publicly funded stadia should be viewable by the public on free TV. It’s galling that “our” Twins are now exclusively on cable, not that they’ve been compelling television anyway.

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