Buccaneers, NFL, & Aramark Refuse To Comment On Use Of Unpaid Servants

Sunday's revelation that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are among several professional sports teams using unpaid, destitute "indentured servants" as concessions workers has led to swift action on behalf of government bodies as well as the Rays and their stadium services contractor Centerplate, but the Bucs and Raymond James Stadium concessions provider Aramark are refusing to talk about the allegations.

The Tampa Bay Lightning informed the Tampa Bay Times that they ended their relationships with the New Beginnings "work therapy" charity in 2013 due to "reliability and consistency concerns." Those concerns didn't keep the team from recognizing New Beginnings CEO Tom Atchison as a "Community Hero" or from donating $50,000 to the organization, which is accused of forcing homeless residents to work concession stands in exchange for food and housing while confiscating the workers' Social Security checks.

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The Rays, meanwhile, told the Times they've launched an immediate investigation alongside Centerplate, which told the paper they explicitly forbid charities from operating under the alleged scheme reported. (Centerplate, of course, had its own recent scandal to deal with.)

Of course, the sizzle here is that the local franchise of America's biggest sport is involved; they won't talk about the accusations, nor will Aramark or the NFL.

Read the full Times update here, and our original recap from Sunday below.

Photo credit: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images Sport

Report: Buccaneers Employ Indentured Servants As Concessions Workers

In a system labor experts are calling "outrageous," the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are among several professional sports teams a Tampa Bay Times investigation found employ unpaid, destitute people to sell peanuts and beer to fans at the stadium.

Reporter Will Hobson's investigation found the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, and Daytona 500 all employed labor from the New Beginnings ministry in a system the New Beginnings CEO calls "work therapy" but labor investigators call "indentured servitude." The money earned working the concession stands, the Times reports, goes directly to New Beginnings, which provides the men with shelter and food; in total, New Beginnings brought in $932,816 in income last year.

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Most of the men are homeless, destitute, and drug or alcohol addicts. Workers told the Times that New Beginnings confiscated their Social Security checks and food stamps and that while the organization claims to provide counseling, it employs no one with training to treat drug addicts or the mentally ill. One of the organization's chief ministers cited as qualification that "he ran a motorcycle gang."

James Kelly, an admitted pain-pill addict, stayed at New Beginnings for a few weeks in 2012. He said he left after not getting paid for the hours he worked at Rays games.

"You have to work for them, and they drug test you," said Kelly, 34. "I guess that's what they call counseling."

The Tampa Bay Lightning honored New Beginnings CEO Thomas Atchison last year as "a community hero." Tropicana Field concessions operator Center Plate says it's unaware homeless people were working its stands, and that charities are forbidden from sending volunteers "dependent upon the charity for food, clothing, shelter ... or any other necessities of life."

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["Tampa homeless program uses unpaid, destitute residents as steady labor force, revenue source," Tampa Bay Times]

Photo credit: David J. Phillip/AP