Missouri senator Claire McCaskill says that she is drafting legislation that would require professional sports franchises that skip town prematurely to refund the public. St. Louis now has no NFL team, but incredibly, the city, county, and state still owe a combined $152 million to pay off the Edward Jones Dome.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch McCaskill, a Democrat, is trying to work with fellow Missouri senator Roy Blunt, a Republican, to co-sponsor legislation that would prevent the public from holding the bag entirely after a publicly-subsidized team bolted.
The likelihood of a bill of this nature ever actually being passed, of course, is slim-to-none. But as a senator McCaskill wields enormous influence, and just the threat of legislation could be enough to compel professional sports leagues to do something that would reduce the brazen fleecing of cities and states. As the Post-Dispatch notes, previous pressure from the Senate forced the NFL to adopt an actual relocation procedure: no more sneaking to a new city in the middle of the night.
To be clear, McCaskill still isn’t on the side of the righteous here. She was in favor of the public plunking down another $400 million to build a stadium to keep the Rams in St. Louis, even though there is a near-consensus in the academic literature that stadiums provide no economic benefit. In fact, her proposed legislation only has any effect at all if the public continued to finance stadiums. The solution to the stadium finance boondoggle is to eliminate it altogether, not simply to make it costlier for the Stan Kroenke to leave 21 years after the public built him a new stadium.
But rather than letting perfect be the enemy of good, let’s acknowledge that this is at least a step in the right direction. If this proposed legislation were to become a reality, the lifespan of the average stadium would be increased, and the public would at least get a slightly better deal in exchange for gifting hundreds of millions of dollars to billionaires. It’s not much, but it’s something.
Photo via AP