By Scott Myers, Contributor
John Lewis, a true American hero, said “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up.” You have to say something; you have to do something.”
So I’m doing my little bit about something very wrong.
On July 15, 2020 the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners decided that they did not know what to do with all of this taxpayer money. By a vote of 6 to 1 they approved a proposal from the Tampa Sports Authority (TSA) to spend $10.4 million of these funds for implementing Corona Virus safety measures at Raymond James Stadium so that the Tampa Bay Bucs, a highly profitable private company, would be able to have more fans attend their games.
Based on 2018 revenue, a full season played in an empty stadium could mean a loss of roughly $119 million in stadium revenue for the Bucs, according to Forbes. So let’s think about what would happen if this $10.4 million of taxpayer money was not spent on making RayJay ‘safe’ for Bucs’ home games.
What, then, would the Glazers (billionaire owners of the Bucs) do? Would they spend none of their own money to implement these measures, thereby pretty much assuring themselves of little to no stadium revenue? Or would they spend their own money to gain whatever profit from stadium revenue is to be had for the 2020 season?
And what does it matter to the taxpayer what they would do? It is the Glazer’s for-profit business and they can spend or not spend money as they see fit – free enterprise! It is clear that not a dime of taxpayer money should have been approved for this endeavor by the six jock-sniffing Hillsborough County Commissioners.
And having 15,000 to 20,000 folks gather together in a venue where expensive alcohol flows freely to many partakers during this COVID pandemic is certainly a good thing, right? What possibly could go wrong. Yes, by all means, let’s spend taxpayer money to make this happen!
One can easily argue that this CARES Act expenditure is not legal. According to the U.S. Treasury website, the CARES Act requires that the payments from the Coronavirus Relief Fund be used to cover only expenses that—
- are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19);
- were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act) for the State or government; and
- were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2020.
Is it necessary to subsidize a for-profit company so that fans can attend football games? Is this an essential service? I don’t think so. Nor are the Hillsborough County taxpayers legally obligated to the Bucs or the NFL to make these expenditures.
No doubt, the TSA folks and the six jock-sniffing Hillsborough County Commissioners who approved these funds to be spent on RayJay will raise the point that the Super Bowl is scheduled to be played at the stadium on February 7, 2021 which, in their view, makes this effort all the more important. To reiterate, whatever efforts need to be taken to make RayJay Super Bowl ready is not the obligation of the taxpayers.
If the Bucs will not pay for the ‘needed’ modifications, then the NFL can certainly foot the bill. And the NFL can certainly threaten to move the Super Bowl to a different venue. No doubt many other cities would just love to pay the NFL millions of dollars to host this event during the COVID crisis so that they too can partially fill up their stadium while totally filling up their hospital beds and morgues.
Money flows to restaurants, hotels, airports, transportation services and small businesses, but most of those revenues go to the large corporations that are providing the services. Likewise, the majority of the event’s revenue from ticket sales and NFL merchandise, do not stay in the host city. Instead, it’s shared with the NFL or non-local suppliers. And, the host city gets to fork over millions of dollars for event preparations, police and fire department expenses, etc.
Here is a crazy idea. Instead of further lining the pockets of the Glazers, how about using that $10.4 million of CARES money for essential expenditures such as:
- making schools safe
- restocking food banks
- providing homeless shelters
- providing rent relief
- providing PPE equipment for healthcare workers and first responders
- providing quick turnaround COVID testing for all essential workers and residents with COVID symptons
Or, am I crazy because Hillsborough County no longer has any homeless people, no households struggling to pay their rent or make car payments, and no schools that do not already have all the funds and plans they need to open safely next month?With all the pandemic/economic/financial pain currently happenin, spending this money on RayJay is totally unconscionable.
Kudos to the six jock-sniffiing Hillsborough County Commissioners who voted for this absurdity.